The Secretary of State to the Minister in Costa Rica (Scotten)
Sir: The Board of Economic Warfare10 is anxious to establish through Defense Supplies Corporation11 in some Latin American country a plantation for the cultivation and development of cinchona trees from which quinine and other anti-malarial products may be derived. Prior to the present war, over 95 percent of the world’s quinine came from the Netherlands East Indies where cinchona trees were scientifically cultivated. Trees known as “Cinchona ledgeriana” were developed there which produced a very high quinine content. [Page 95] The more common “Cinchona succirubra” of South America produces bark with a much lower quinine content. At present the sole source of quinine for the United States is the bark of wild cinchona trees of a few Latin American countries, and it is essential to the war effort that new sources of quinine be developed.
Colonel Fischer12 of the United States Army, who has had more than twenty years experience with cinchona plantations in the Philippines and the East Indies, escaped from Bataan with over 2,000,000 cinchona seeds of the ledgeriana variety. These seeds are now being cared for by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Defense Supplies Corporation plans to establish in Latin America a plantation upon which the seeds brought by Colonel Fischer from the Philippines may be grown and various experiments conducted with reference to cinchona. It is planned that Colonel Fischer will be placed in charge of the plantation and will have a number of technical experts to assist him.
Defense Supplies Corporation would like to establish and operate such a plantation in Costa Rica. In order to assure room for expansion and development of the project it will require 10,000 acres of land, preferably cleared or semi-cleared.
The enclosed Memorandum of Understanding should be submitted to the Costa Rican Government as soon as possible. You will note that the Costa Rican Government is asked to make the necessary lands available to Defense Supplies Corporation by lease, concession or otherwise for a period of twenty-five years. Naturally we would much prefer that the Republic of Costa Rica would, as its contribution to this project, grant a concession of government lands without charge to Defense Supplies Corporation. If this is not possible, Defense Supplies Corporation would be willing to lease or purchase the necessary lands. The program contemplates the surrender of the plantation and the buildings thereon within twenty-five years to the Republic of Costa Rica, and a concession to Government-owned lands would therefore seem most appropriate.
The interest of Supplies Corporation is primarily to assure the United Nations a reserve supply of quinine in the event the present war is a prolonged one. Consequently the measure should be presented to the Costa Rican Government as a mutual war project. Of secondary importance is the fact that the proposed plantation will probably become the nucleus of a permanent cinchona bark industry in the Western Hemisphere. In this connection it should be observed that Defense Supplies Corporation will make available to the Republic of Costa Rica technical and scientific information acquired by it in the operation of the plantation.[Page 96]
The project will be conducted so as to comply in all respects with the applicable laws of Costa Rica. Costa Rica is asked only to make necessary lands available, not to impose taxes, fees, charges, etc., which would hinder the full development of the plantation, and not to restrict the exportation of seeds, stems, roots, or bark of cinchona trees to friendly nations for a twenty-five year period. If any question is raised concerning this latter provision, you may state that its intention is only to assure access to a source of cinchona ledgeriana seed by the United States and other nations, particularly those of the Western Hemisphere.
It is necessary for the preservation of the seeds that they be transplanted as quickly as possible. If the enclosed Memorandum is approved in the near future, the Board of Economic Warfare will immediately send representatives to Costa Rica to search for suitable lands and it is expected that the project could be put under way within a few months. Inasmuch as the Board of Economic Warfare and Defense Supplies Corporation would like to proceed with the project as rapidly as possible, you should ascertain and advise us whether any objection might be had to sending a survey party to Costa Rica prior to execution of the agreement.
Mr. R. V. Dewey, special representative of the Board of Economic Warfare and Defense Supplies Corporation, is informed of the proposal and should be able to give you valuable assistance in the presentation of this Memorandum and should be asked to participate with you in discussions concerning it.
Very truly yours,
- An emergency war agency of the United States Government.↩
- A United States Government agency within the Department of Commerce.↩
- Col. Arthur F. Fischer.↩
- For text of the Final Act of the Conference held January 15–28, 1942, see Department of State Bulletin, February 7, 1942, p. 117. Resolution II (ibid., p. 119) concerned the economic mobilization of the American Republics to supply strategic and basic materials necessary to the defense of the Hemisphere.↩