Fertile Lands of Friendship
G U L F
M E X I C O
Edited by DANIEL E. ALLEGER
Fertile Lands of Friendship
THE FLORIDA-COSTA RICAN EXPERIMENT
University of Florida Press
Note of Appreciation to United Fruit Company
T he University of Florida takes the opportunity to thank
United Fruit Company for a self-sustaining grant to
finance this publication. It is worthy of note that in historical documen-
tations of the economic progress of Latin America the contributions of
United Fruit Company have long stood out in bold relief. Its role began
in 1899 when Captain Lorenzo D. Baker, Minor C. Keith, and Andrew
W. Preston merged their business interests and formed United Fruit
Company. Over the last six decades the Company has opened and
placed new ports into operation, driven railroads deep into the hearts of
virgin jungles, placed centuries-old tropical lowlands into productive
agricultural use, built towns and provided them with all essential serv-
ices, established and operated hospitals, conducted programs to eradi-
cate malaria, developed radio communication between the Americas,
founded schools in various countries, developed research laboratories,
offered employment to countless thousands of nationals in many coun-
tries, and, not the least of all, placed in operation a fleet of steamships
to carry the trade it generated.
United Fruit Company has long been identified with tropical plant
introductions to Latin America and with tropical agricultural research
relating thereto. Thus it is that the financial support it has given to this
publication, which deals largely with agricultural research in general, is
in keeping with its policy of education and cultural advancement so long
pursued. Its sponsorship, however, does not imply an approval of state-
ments made or views expressed by the several authors. Neither does it
exercise a proprietary interest in the publication. It is with genuine
pleasure, therefore, that the University of Florida expresses its gratitude
to United Fruit Company for the financial assistance it has so gener-
ously extended. Moreover, the University is confident its Latin American
friends and readers will share in this gratitude.
A University of Florida Press Book
COPYRIGHT, 1962, BY THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
OF STATE INSTITUTIONS OF FLORIDA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
CATALOGUE CARD NO. 62-20773
PRINTED BY THE DOUGLAS PRINTING Co.
RUSSELL G. ELLYSON
Statement of STICA
O n December 21, 1954, a contract entered into be-
tween the Servicio T6cnico Interamericano de Co-
operaci6n Agricola (STICA) and the Board of Control, acting for
and on behalf of the University of Florida with its principal office
in Gainesville, Florida, became effective. In cooperation with
STICA it was designed to speed up the agricultural development
of Costa Rica along the following lines:
1. To raise the general level of agricultural production for specific
products and on individual farms.
2. To improve host-country agricultural programs.
3. To introduce new types of agricultural programs.
4. To train host-country agricultural technicians.
During the life of the Contract 17 University of Florida Agri-
cultural Experiment Station staff members served a total of more
than 15 man-years on tours of duty in Costa Rica. Meanwhile Costa
Ricans studied at the University of Florida in the participant train-
ing program in various technical fields such as beef cattle and swine
production, economics, marketing, land use studies, nematodes, etc.
The total Contract program helped in the training of Costa Ricans
in areas of agricultural production and research. In addition it
developed a friendly relationship between the University of Florida
and Costa Rica that gives promise of continuing through the years
ahead. STICA is grateful to the University of Florida for the high
quality of the educators it sent to Costa Rica. Its administrators
would also like to acknowledge and pay tribute to their families
who meant so much to the community life of San Jos6 and Costa
Rican approval of the North American Colony.
The close working relationship between the University of Flor-
ida, STICA, and MAI demonstrated harmony that is desired but
seldom achieved. The good will generated through the contract
between the two countries and the institutions and technicians
should have lasting benefits.
Dr. Harold Mowry proudly holds
El Alto trophy presented to
the University of Florida
J. WAYNE REITZ
For many years the University of Florida has main-
tained a continuing academic and cultural interest in
the Caribbean area. In 1954 this historical relationship was further
emphasized through formalizing of a contract with the Servicio
T6cnico Interamericano de Cooperacion Agricola de Costa Rica
(STICA) of the International Cooperation Administration (ICA)
of the United States of America to initiate an official program of
technical assistance in agriculture to the government of Costa Rica.
The program was designed to give assistance to the Ministry of
Agriculture and Industries (MAI) under the auspices of STICA in
the development of a strong and effective agricultural research
organization. The specific contractual responsibility of the Univer-
sity of Florida was that it use its best efforts, in cooperation with
STICA, to render technical advice and assistance to Costa Rica for
the purpose of facilitating the development of Costa Rican agricul-
ture and stimulating and increasing the interchange of knowledge,
skills, and techniques in the fields of agriculture.
Under this service contract the University of Florida extended
approximately 15 man-years of advisory assistance to Costa Rica
over a six-year span. A total of 18 staff members of the University
served tours of duty, 17 of them under the Contract and one prior
to its inception. For the first two years of its existence the Contract
was skillfully guided by the late Harold Mowry, former director of
the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, while serving with
ICA. Mowry, who worked without remuneration from the Contract,
was eminently successful in helping to establish the policy and
Without exception, the University technicians entered into and
carried out their assignments with enthusiasm. Each knew that his
personal obligation was to help in the recognition and assessment
of problems, in the designing of projects, and in the selection of
methods adapted to the solution of those problems. It was also his
FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
responsibility to aid his counterparts in becoming familiar with and
utilizing the experimental procedures and techniques required-
always with the tacit understanding that the conduct of the work
was primarily the responsibility of the STICA staff and the MAI
counterparts. The reception and attitudes of the cooperating Minis-
try staff to the University program and technicians were of the
highest order, and the relationship remained one of mutual respect
and confidence throughout the Contract period. So excellent was
the teamwork that within the STICA organization it was difficult
to distinguish between ICA and University technicians. And cer-
tainly these cordial relationships were dominant factors in the grati-
fying achievements of the program.
It should be borne in mind that, as with the teaching profession,
the greater part of the Contract attainments must be considered as
intangible and that they can be truly evaluated only through the
future progress made by the cooperating Ministry technicians. Yet
it is a source of satisfaction to the administration of the University
of Florida that these accomplishments, even though difficult of
assessment in tangible values, were still of such merit that the gov-
ernment of Costa Rica expressed regret when the Contract came to
a close. Happily, the friendships made between the Costa Ricans and
the University assignees during the Contract period have continued
over the months since its expiration. Thus, in effect, only the clos-
ing of the Contract was formal, and the good will engendered
through it is a continuing fact-a fact of credit to the Univer-
sity and to Costa Rica alike. And it is with gratitude that the
University of Florida acknowledges the aid of the ICA which made
possible this fortunate international relationship.
This symposium documents the agricultural contributions of the
University of Florida to Costa Rica, as well as the joint accomplish-
ments achieved through the willing cooperation of a large body of
highly-trained Costa Rican scientists, of personnel in the ICA, of
members of other international and host-country organizations, and
of innumerable private citizens. The reports in this volume cover
five major fields of interest-agricultural economics, plant nutrition
and soils, entomology, livestock and its products, and plant pathol-
ogy. Collectively they make a valuable contribution to the bibliog-
raphy of Costa Rican agriculture which should be of interest to
scholars and agricultural scientists interested in Latin America,
wherever they may live. The University of Florida Press takes pride
in publishing this work, which adds a new title to its already im-
pressive list of scholarly works on Latin America-works which
have been steadily attracting favorable international attention.
ALLEGER, DANIEL E., Associate Agricultural Economist, University of
BLUE, WILLIAM G., Associate Biochemist, University of Florida,
CORBETT, M. K., Assistant Virologist, University of Florida, Gainesville.
DAVIS, GEORGE K., Director, Nuclear Activities and Animal Nutritionist,
University of Florida, Gainesville.
ELLYSON, RUSSELL G., Chief of Agricultural Division, ICA, United
States Operations Mission to Costa Rica, San Jos6, Costa Rica.
FIFIELD, WILLARD M., Provost for Agriculture, University of Florida,
GREENE, R. E. L., Agricultural Economist, University of Florida,
KIDDER, RALPH W., Animal Husbandman, University of Florida Ever-
glades Experiment Station, Belle Glade.
KILLINGER, GORDON B., Agronomist, University of Florida, Gainesville.
KIRK, W. G., Vice-Director in charge, University of Florida Range
Cattle Station, Ona.
KRETSCHMER, A. E., JR., Associate Agronomist, University of Florida
Indian River Field Laboratory, Fort Pierce, Florida.
KRIENKE, W. A., Associate Dairy Scientist, University of Florida,
KUITERT, LOUIs C., Entomologist, University of Florida, Gainesville.
McPHERSON, WILLIAM K., Agricultural Economist, University of
MARSHALL, SIDNEY P., Dairy Husbandman, University of Florida,
PENDLETON, R. A., Agronomist, International Cooperation Administra-
tion, San Jos6, Costa Rica.
REITZ, J. WAYNE, President, University of Florida, Gainesville.
REUSS, L. A., Agricultural Economist, USDA and University of Florida,
SANDERS, D. A., Veterinarian, University of Florida, Gainesville.
VOLK, GAYLORD M., Soils Chemist, University of Florida, Gainesville.
WANDER, I. W., Secretary-General Manager, Growers Fertilizer Coopera-
tive, Lake Alfred, Florida, and former Soils Chemist, University of
Florida Citrus Experiment Station at Lake Alfred.
WILKOWSKE, HOWARD H., Assistant Director, University of Florida
Agricultural Experiment Stations, Gainesville.
STATEMENT OF STICA: Russell G. Ellyson.............................- v
FOREWORD: J. Wayne Reitz..................................--..--..--.... vii
INTRODUCTION: Daniel E. Alleger--..---.....--......---....- ...........--- 1
THE FLORIDA CONTRACT: Willard M. Fifield...--............-..-....--- 7
DANIEL E. ALLEGER: Agricultural Economics----...............--.-- 26
WILLIAM K. MCPHERSON: Land Use Problems........................ 51
R. E. L. GREENE: Potatoes Production and
Marketing Problems--...........-... 65
L. A. REUSs: Land Tenure and Type and Size of Farm.........-.. 88
DANIEL E. ALLEGER: The Cattle Situation-........................-...... 102
W. G. KIRK: The Livestock Industry...............-........................ 116
GEORGE K. DAVIS: Animal Nutrition-..................................... 126
RALPH W. KIDDER: Animal Feeds and Feeding--..-.....-......-..... 138
D. A. SANDERS: Livestock and Poultry Diseases....-.............-..... 148
SIDNEY P. MARSHALL: The Dairy Industry.......................--.. 156
W. A. KRIENKE: Dairy Manufacturing..-..........................-- .. 169
HOWARD H. WILKOWSKE: The Cheese Industry... -------................... 180
GORDON B. KILLINGER: Forage, Pasture and Field Crops......-... 197
WILLIAM G. BLUE: Pasture Fertilization Experiments..........----. 211
I. W. WANDER: Coffee Nutrition.....--........ -----------.......... 243
GAYLORD M. VOLK: The STICA Laboratory -
Plant and Soil Analysis.......................- 250
ALBERT E. KRETSCHMER, JR.: Soil Laboratory
Louis C. KUITERT: Mediterranean Fruit Fly Control.............. 283
M. K. CORBETT: Plant Virus Diseases.......--.----.........-........-- 298
IN RETROSPECT: R. A. Pendleton ............................................. 301
SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...----..-----------..........--....--.......... 307
INDEX .......-----...... ...--.--.-- ..-- -...----..........--.......-- 309
DANIEL E. ALLEGER
The University of Florida-STICA Contract and its
achievements are set forth in considerable detail
in the subsequent chapters by the various authors participating
in this publication. What is not explained, except inferentially, is
the manner in which the sociopolitical structures of Costa Rica
impinge directly upon all segments of the agricultural economy,
and therefore upon the lives of all its people. A mention of cer-
tain of these institutions with an explanation of their functioning
will help to clarify the conceptual framework within which the
Costa Rican agricultural industry moves. But, first, a brief glimpse
of Costa Rican history.
In many respects the history of Costa Rica is one of common
struggle with other Latin American nations against Spain. Costa
Rica's independence became affirmed in 1850, and its colonizing
history started in 1564 when Juan Vasquez de Coronado trans-
ported 50 families from the Galicia and Aragon regions of Spain
to begin the first permanent colonization settlement. These people
were said to have been farm folks and they carried horses, cows,
and swine to the new homes which they founded in fertile valleys
and river lowlands. In their Historia de Costa Rica (1948), Carlos
Monge and Ernesto J. Wender state that the small property early
distinguished Costa Rica from the rest of the continent, and thus it
may be unique in the social and human evolution of Latin America.
It made neither slaves nor servants; it created individualism and
set high ideals. By the end of the eighteenth century pride in the
ownership of property and the sentiment of equality had become
deeply ingrained in all Costa Ricans. In fact, the political stability
of Costa Rica has often been attributed to this early system.
Today, after four centuries of growth, the economy of the coun-
try remains predominantly agricultural. As in all agrarian regions,
numerous cultural and institutional problems are encountered and,
generally speaking, crop yields are well below recognized poten-
2 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
tials. The rapid rise in the country's population, some 4 per cent
annually, makes compensatory increases in the production of food
crops mandatory to forestall the necessity of importing those items
which can and should be grown locally. It is obvious that if Costa
Rica is to maintain self-sufficiency in these food crops and retain
its share of the world markets for its tropical produce, continuing
improvement in methods and techniques of culture, husbandry, and
pest and disease controls is a basic essential. For these reasons the
identification of the principal legal institutions affecting farming,
assembly, distribution, and marketing of agricultural products
seems warranted. These legal creations, or autonomous institutions
(semigovernmental), are sometimes directly involved in business
Among the most influential of the organizations which affect
both the farmer and the consumer, are the Consejo Nacional de Pro-
ducci6n (National Production Council), the Junta de Cafia, the
Dos Pinos Milk Cooperative, and agricultural credit institutions.
Outside of agriculture one encounters, among many others, insti-
tutions such as the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, which
generates and distributes electricity; the nationalized Pacific Elec-
tric Railway, which connects San Jos6 with the Pacific Coast; a
national liquor factory; and a national insurance institute. It is
within this framework of governmental or semigovernmental insti-
tutions that agricultural policies and programs develop.
The Consejo Nacional de Producci6n.-A 1956 law empowered
a semiautonomous institution, called the Consejo Nacional de Pro-
ducci6n, to assume price regulatory duties, along with many other
responsibilities. In establishing guaranteed prices to farmers for
specific commodities, the government moved to protect farmers
against seasonal price variations. Guaranteed prices were set (1)
to destroy established monopsonies and/or oligopsonies, (2) to
enter into contractual agreements with producers for crops, (3) to
purchase and store basic food crops in times of abundance, and
(4) to help maintain relatively stable prices for consumers.
The purchasing program of the Consejo, in order to make
guaranteed prices effective, requires heavy financing, which is
obtained (1) from the state, (2) through funds obtained by the
operation of the National Liquor Factory, (3) by direct loans
from the Banco Central de Costa Rica, and (4) through loans
from the commercial banks of the national banking system.
The regulation of minimum prices covers products for human
consumption, such as rice, beans, fish, and others, as well as raw
materials for industry, as, for example, sesame and cotton. To
take care of consumer demand directly a chain of retail stores was
set up. The stores are commonly known as estancos. For brokers
and wholesalers there are the almacenes de distribuci6n, where
brokers can buy freely. These estancos and almacenes numbered
52 in 1960, with 31 of them located in the Central Plateau (Meseta
Central), where the volume need for basic foods is greatest; and
the other 21 distributed throughout the rest of the nation. The
Consejo has encouraged the development of a storage program to
provide the country with adequate facilities to conserve specific
agricultural and cattle products. It maintains four grain elevators
with a total capacity exceeding 600,000 quintales, which are
utilized mainly for storing the grain which the organization buys
from the farmers. Until these elevators were built it had not been
possible to provide storage service to either farmers or middlemen.
Junta de CaTia.-An organization called the Protective Board for
Sugar Cane Agriculture, usually referred to as the Junta de Cafia,
regulates the supply and price of granulated sugar on the local
market. This is a private organization but the Minister of Agri-
culture is a member of its board of directors. At this writing there
is only one quality of local granulated sugar available. For several
years prior to 1959 the price, per pound for sugar did not vary
and remained at Q0.55 per pound ($0.0825 USA).
Dos Pinos Cooperativa de Productores de Leche, R. L.-The
size of the dairy industry has made necessary the coordinated as-
sembling, selling, and distribution of dairy products. A very
modern dairy cooperative, commonly called Dos Pinos Coopera-
tive, with a membership of well over 200 dairymen, processes a
large share of the milk production. Because of its volume output of
pasteurized milk it effectively standardizes the price for this prod-
uct on the San Jos6 market, where the bulk of the consumers are
located. About 68 per cent of the milk handled in 1958 was sold
4 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
as pasteurized or homogenized milk, and the remainder was used
for nonfat dry milk powder. The powder program was originally
designed to utilize "surplus" or wet-season milk, but relatively high
prices for wholesale milk have resulted in an expanded powder
program. In 1955 around 447,000 pounds of powder were manu-
factured; in 1959 the total exceeded 1,776,000 pounds. Much of
the 1959 output was excess and went into storage at the Consejo
Nacional de Producci6n under a government purchasing program.
Agricultural Credit Institutions.-All banking institutions are
nationalized or controlled. In 1959 the banking system included
three national banks and one private bank under the control of a
central bank, the Banco Central de Costa Rica. Each of the national
banks has facilities and capital for agricultural credit. In 1959
more than $50 million U.S.A. equivalent was available for miscel-
laneous types of credit. Since each bank operates under the control
of the Banco Central, the banking policies as to terms, interest rates,
and security requirements are similar. In brief, it can be said that
agricultural credit is both highly specialized and departmentalized.
Some types of credit are for (1) livestock production loans, (2)
new pasture and fence construction loans, and (3) general financ-
ing loans with 010,000 ($1,500 USA) limit per person.
The Banco Nacional was the pioneer in agricultural credit in
Costa Rica. It has a special program designed for small and medium
class farmers and is called Juntas Rurales de Credito Agricola.
About 50 Junta Rurales were operating in various parts of the
country in 1959. There is a central directing office, but individual
juntas have considerable responsibility and authority. In each rural
agency a board or committee of three farmers is appointed with
responsibility for reviewing and passing upon each application for
a loan. Loans at 6 per cent are available for almost any type of
production operation. Among these are the following:
1. Short-term seed and feed loans, which are annual loans.
2. Machinery and equipment loans, repayable in three years.
3. Permanent installation loans, repayable in five years.
4. Productive livestock and work animal loans, repayable in eight
5. Farm improvement and farm purchase loans, repayable in 151/2
As a whole, farmers are literate and consciously maintain good
credit ratings. Over 99 per cent of the loans made by the Juntas
Rurales which matured in 1959 were collected, although nearly 30
per cent of the borrowers had their repayment schedules revised
because of conditions beyond their control. The Banco Cr6dito
Agricola de Cartago also operates a loan program to aid small
farmers with short-term and medium loans.
There are also particularized types of loans, and each type is
usually a specialty of a given bank.
Miscellaneous Institutions.-In addition to the organizations just
described there are strong and influential special-interest groups
such as the Oficina del Caf6 and the Camara de Ganaderos de
Guanacaste. Others which could be listed include the Atlantic
Cacao Producers Cooperative, Ltd., and an egg and a tobacco co-
operative. In addition, a half-dozen other cooperatives were in the
organizational or planning stage in 1959. The cooperative program
under which the Dos Pinos Cooperative was formed was a special
project of the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica, which maintains an
independent budget for this operation. Initiated in 1947, this pro-
gram was expanded in 1955 because of the favorable experience
enjoyed by the Bank during the eight-year period.
Because of the administrative control exercised over them by
the Banco Nacional the cooperatives are in fact like many other
institutions, only semiautonomous. For example, since early 1957
the Banco Central and the Consejo Nacional de Producci6n have
been associated with the Cacao Producers Cooperative mentioned
above. As a consequence, the amount of operating capital available
to the Cooperative was considerably increased. However, the man-
ager of the Cacao Cooperative was appointed by the National Bank
as well as three of the seven representatives on its board of direc-
tors. The Consejo Nacional de Producci6n also names one member
to the board of directors. This illustration points up the interlocking
arrangements of various semigovernmental organizations, each of
which in its own right exercises considerable influence over farmers
and farm products.
In vesting in the government many rights formerly reserved for
the people, the Costa Ricans have demonstrated their faith in con-
6 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
stitutional democracy. Controls, restraints, and regulations em-
ployed by the government for the general welfare of all the people
were acquired from and with the consent of the governed. These
rights were vested in the government not only to insure domestic
tranquillity but also to guide the nation toward higher levels of
economic development. It is not the purpose of the authors of this
symposium to pass judgment or to offer comparisons on national
regulatory institutions, because each country tends to develop those
institutional arrangements best suited to its objectives. Rather, it
is the fervent hope of the authors that the papers contained herein
will become an instrument of greater understanding, even if small
in degree, between the United States and its Caribbean neighbors.
WILLARD M. FIFIELD
The Florida Contract
Costa Ricans take just pride in their educational
attainments. Only Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile,
in the order named, report higher national literacy rates. Agricul-
tural graduates of the University of Costa Rica are numerous and
well trained, a unique situation in Latin America. Its engineer-
agronomists are members of a professional organization which
commands a strong voice in national agricultural programming.
Moreover, some of its members have made and are still making
notable contributions to Latin American agricultural sciences.
In spite of this favorable situation, the Costa Rican government
has been unable as of this writing to conduct studies leading to the
best use of abandoned banana lands in tropical areas, although
these are areas that have been cleared, drained, and provided with
access roads. In mid-1956 the United Fruit Company, which holds
extensive lands in Costa Rica, curtailed operations in its Quepos
Division on the Pacific coast. While the Company provided financial
aid to some farmers who wanted to go into the rice business, others
from lack of trained supervision or knowledge drifted into subsist-
ence farming. This repeated the Lim6n experience of some years
earlier when Panama disease forced the abandonment of banana
The recurrent expense of land abandonment and development of
new banana production areas in time forced the United Fruit Com-
pany to invest heavily in applied agricultural production research.
In the 1920's the Company organized tropical agricultural research
on a comprehensive and highly scientific basis. It has since gained
recognition for its introductory gardens at Lancetilla, Honduras, for
its agronomic and soils laboratory at La Lima, Honduras, and for
its field studies in many countries, especially as related to the ba-
nana. It has long sought and is still seeking a control for Panama
disease; it developed techniques for keeping sigatoka in check,
conducted vast experiments with flood fallowing, fertilization, irri-
irrigate United Fruit
Co. banana farms
gation, soils and plant nutrition, and performed many other research
activities. Its practical research discoveries were introduced to all
countries where it maintained production operations. Moreover,
scattered over the United States today there are many agricultural
scientists who received their early research training as United Fruit
Nearly all Caribbean countries, as well as several in South Amer-
ica, have profited in some manner or degree from United Fruit's
commercial activities. In Costa Rica alone it planted 24,000 acres
of cacao, 10,000 acres of African palm, and 5,000 acres of abaca.
Some of these lands are now in private operation under lease or
through transfer of ownership. As extensive as these cultivations
were, their annual aggregate dollar revenue was small as compared
to income from bananas. In 1955, to cite one example, and the first
full year of the University of Florida-ICA Costa Rica Contract oper-
ation, United Fruit shipped nearly 7,000,000 stems of bananas from
Costa Rica, or a fifth of its total shipments. United Fruit's total
exports of bananas, cacao, and abaca then approximated 50 per cent
of Costa Rica's total agricultural exports, and about 25 per cent of
total agricultural production.' From these data it can be seen that
the tropical lowlands have been contributing most heavily to the
dollar exchange Costa Rica earns from agricultural exports.
THE FLORIDA CONTRACT 9
Another measure of the economic importance of Costa Rica's low-
land agriculture is gleaned from average salaries and wages paid to
the gainfully employed. In the "banana provinces" of Puntarenas
and Lim6n, average per capital annual earnings of agricultural
workers in 1950 were 40 per cent higher in Puntarenas and 50 per
cent higher in Lim6n than in the nation as a whole.2 This was due
largely to a national salary commission which sets minimum wage
rates of banana and cacao workers, by agreement with the United
Fruit Company, at a 53 per cent higher level than for coffee laborers
and even higher than for other farm laborers, most of whom are
found in the cool highlands of the interior.
Space has here been given to United Fruit's research contribu-
tions to tropical agriculture not only because the Company has had
such a decisive influence on the economic destiny of many nations,
but also because this symposium deals largely but not entirely with
the agriculture of the tropical highlands. The general omission of
lowland tropical agricultural research stems not from design but
rather from the nature of the University Contract with Costa Rica.
In fairness to the various writers it should be noted that they were
all cognizant of the pressing problems of Costa Rica's lowlands, as
are Costa Rican officials generally. It is to be regretted that suffi-
cient funds and men are not available in Costa Rica to meet all
urgent national agricultural research needs simultaneously.
Until recent years, organized agricultural research by the govern-
ment of Costa Rica was extremely limited. In 1950, to help stimulate
the economic growth of the country, the MAI broadened its activi-
ties by initiating agricultural investigational work within its appro-
priate departments. Although the chiefs and many of the technicians
of these departments held the Ingeniero Agr6nomo or the Master's
degree, many of them lacked the opportunity for observation and
experience in newly developed experimental procedures. And, as in
any new program of research development, the complexity of the
many serious problems, whose solution required both highly spe-
cialized training and equipment, created definite handicaps. It was
these factors that led the MAI to request the ICA of the United
States to seek advisory assistance of competent agricultural spe-
cialists from an American university. Both groups agreed that such
10 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
aid could be utilized to great advantage in furthering the Ministry's
research program. The University.of Florida, located in a state
with an environment in many respects fairly similar to that of Costa
Rica, and with a large corps of agricultural scientists on its staff,
was unusually well qualified in the attributes necessary to such an
undertaking. The enthusiastic interest evidenced by University offi-
cials and by the Minister of Agriculture in the proposal of lending
the services and skills of some of the University's technicians for
this purpose led to the negotiation of a covering contract.
The Contract between the University of Florida and STICA,
executed December 21, 1954, became active April 1, 1955, with the
arrival of the first University technicians in Costa Rica. It continued
actively in operation by extensions and renewals through June, 1960.
The primary function of the Contract was to strengthen the agri-
cultural research divisions of the Costa Rican MAI through assign-
ment of highly qualified technicians and by short-term training of
selected Ministry personnel in specialized subjects in the Univer-
sity's Experiment Stations. Because of the lack of required facilities
within the country it also provided for a limited amount of analyti-
cal work to be done in University laboratories. It should be stressed
that the intent of the Contract was to assist in the development of
an agricultural research program consistent with the country's needs
and abilities and not to conduct such a program. The over-all objec-
tive was to increase the technical competence of MAI personnel.
The FOLLOWING BASIC OBJECTIVES were set forth in
Appendix B of the Contract:
To advise and assist in (A) the development, strengthening, and
expansion of agricultural programs through assignment of Contractor's
technicians to Costa Rica; (B) technical training of Ministry field serv-
ice technicians; and (C) supplying special services, such as training in
University facilities, special laboratory tests, and assistance in the prepa-
ration and demonstration of technical publications. The objectives of
such special training of local technicians and improvement of program-
ming, execution and analysis of research activities, together with im-
provement and expansion of facilities, is to provide competent and
efficient agricultural research programs that can be conducted by the
THE FLORIDA CONTRACT 11
All Contract services were provided under the general policy
guidance of the United States of America Operations Mission
(USOM) Director through the Director of STICA. They were im-
plemented by work programs jointly developed and subject to
review as considered necessary by STICA or the Contractor. Staff
members, including a United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA) specialist stationed at the University, were all recruited
from University of Florida personnel. There was no prevailing
period of appointment, and length of service in Costa Rica varied
from one to 44 months. During the Contract period official visits
made by Florida administrators to Costa Rica and by ICA officials
to Florida helped establish a good personal relationship between the
University and STICA administrators.
The agricultural research programs under which Contract staff
members served were largely those of STICA, although in several
instances, with the joint consent of STICA and MAI, technicians
were consultants to other agencies. STICA, being jointly financed
by the governments of Costa Rica and the United States of Amer-
ica, was yet an autonomous organization. It functioned under a
system of projects signed by designated representatives of the
respective governments. In reality, the STICA projects were de-
tailed work plans which set forth objectives, operational procedures,
and estimated costs. In actual operation, Florida staff members
worked with STICA technicians in carrying out the operations of
specific STICA projects. For example, Florida livestock and agron-
omy assignees worked with STICA's livestock project leader and
MAI personnel to attain designated STICA-MAI objectives in the
development of livestock and pasture programs.
ORGANIZATION AND FINANCE
Since the Contract as drawn between the University and STICA
provided that the principal services were to be for and within the
MAI, it appeared essential that the proposed activities of the Uni-
versity technicians be covered under a STICA project bearing the
signatures both of the Director of STICA and of the Minister of
Agriculture. Such a project (STICA No. 25) was executed in Janu-
ary, 1955. This arrangement simplified working relationships with
12 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
both STICA and the Ministry and extended to the University tech-
nicians the advantages and facilities of the STICA organization.
It also had a definite influence in stimulating cooperation between
Contract and STICA personnel without in any way infringing on
the identity of either group. There can be no doubt but that the
teamwork thus engendered materially furthered the over-all agri-
cultural program and that this unity of purpose and operation
enhanced Contract associations with the Ministry staff.
All matters pertaining to the financing of the expenditures of
technicians during their stay within the country were efficiently
handled by the STICA business offices; salaries and international
travel were paid through the University. Utilization of these STICA
facilities made unnecessary the local employment of a business
manager under the Contract.
Expenditures were restricted largely to salaries, travel, and per-
sonal expenses (per diem and housing) of technicians. Only under
circumstances where essential equipment or materials were other-
wise unavailable were such expenditures authorized. The Ministry,
within budgetary limitations, supplied necessary project needs in
conformity with its "in kind" contribution.
Prior to recommendation of assignment of a technician, the
proposal was in all instances discussed with and approved by MAI,
STICA, and USOM officials as well as the local staff members who
would act as counterparts. The need for a technician's assistance,
the role he was expected to fill, and availability of facilities for
utilization of the assistance he was qualified to render were defi-
nitely determined. Thus, upon arrival, each technician had the ad-
vantage of a guided landing, as it were. Under such circumstances
he needed a minimum of self-orientation, soon became acquainted
with the over-all plan of work in which he was expected to fit, and
received full cooperation from his future co-workers upon his ar-
rival. This advance preparation, it is believed, conserved much
time in the early weeks of assignment by enabling the technician to
adjust himself to the organization and to his work without undue
difficulty and frustrating delay.
At the outset and throughout the term of the Contract a policy
assiduously followed was that of assigning technicians to work di-
THE FLORIDA CONTRACT
rectly with counterparts within appropriate departments of the
Ministry. Their headquarters were within those departments and
essentially they became staff members of the divisions concerned.
In no instance did an assignee assume leadership of a Ministry
project. His obligation was not only to assist technical advancement
in all ways possible but also to do nothing which would tend to
lessen the feeling of responsibility or restrict the freedom of action
and initiative of any of the local staff. From the beginning there
was a tacit understanding that the primary responsibility for the
conduct of the investigations rested with local project leaders and
that any resulting credit would accrue to them.
It should be mentioned that the organization of the Ministry
was such that the technicians were enabled to expend practically
the whole of their efforts directly on their assigned duties; it did
not become necessary or expected that they attend to minor ad-
ministrative details or assume any part of the responsibility for
maintenance of the physical plant.
Seventeen University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
staff members served a total of nearly 15 man-years on tours of duty
in Costa Rica between December 21, 1954, and June 20, 1960,
under the Florida Contract (see Table 1).
In 1954, at the request of University officials and with the con-
currence of local ICA administrative officers, Harold Mowry, then
Consulting Director of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Di-
vision of ICA in Costa Rica, was designated as Supervisor of
Contract Activities without salary or other remuneration from the
University. He acted in that capacity until his retirement early in
1958. Under his supervision policy objectives and procedural
methods were firmly established. On the University of Florida
campus the Contract was represented by the Provost for Agricul-
ture, who was designated as the Campus Coordinator.3
The Contract participant training program was designed to give
Costa Rican recipients in-field training on an individual basis under
14 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
TABLE 1.-TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE EXTENDED FOR 178 MONTHS TO COSTA RICA
UNDER THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA CONTRACT, 1954-1960
Staff Member Contract Title Months Served*
LIVESTOCK................................................. ................................. ................. 62.5
W. G. Blue Pasture Agronomistt 24.0
G. B. Killinger Agronomist 22.0
R. W. Kidder Animal Feeding Specialist 5.0
W. G. Kirk Animal Husbandman 3.5
D. A. Sanders Veterinarian 3.0
H. H. Wilkowske Cheese Mfg. Specialist 2.5
W. A. Krienke Dairy Technologist 1.5
S. P. Marshall Dairy Husbandman 1.0
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS............................. .............................................. 59.5
D. E. Alleger Agricultural EconomistT 44.0
L. A. Reuss Land-Use Specialist 11.0
W. K. McPherson Land Economist 2.5
R. E. L. Greene Potato Marketing Specialist 2.0
SOILS............................... ............ ..... ......................... .................. 39.0
A. E. Kretschmer, Jr. Soils Chemist 22.0
G. M. Volk Soils Chemist 17.0
OTH ERS..... ................................................................................................... 17.0
L. C. Kuitert Entomologist 12.0
I. W. Wander Plant Pathologist 3.0
M. B. Corbett Plant Pathologist 2.0
*Excludes terminal vacations earned under the Contract and services donated
by Harold Mowry. tActing Chief of Party, March to June, 1960.
tChief of Party, following departure of Harold Mowry, until March, 1960.
University of Florida personnel in predetermined subject mat-
ters. Each participant was processed by the San Jos6 ICA training
officer, and his campus program was planned by the Contract
Campus Coordinator. On completion of their training periods, the
participants received evaluation interviews conducted by A. S.
Muller, the University's counselor for Latin American agricultural
students. Five members of the Ministry staff and two faculty mem-
bers of the University of Costa Rica completed training periods in
J. Luis Solano, veterinarian, reported to the University at Gaines-
ville in June, 1956, and returned to San Jos6 the following
December. His training was under the direction of D. A. Sanders,
Head, Department of Veterinary Science, and dealt with advanced
laboratory techniques of disease diagnosis and methods of control.
Adalberto Carrillo, animal husbandman, also arrived at the Uni-
versity in June, 1956. He was assigned to work under the direction
quadrat for sampling
pastures at El
of W. G. Kirk, Head of the Range Cattle Experiment Station at
Ona, and returned to San Jos6 during October. At Florida's Range
Cattle Station Carrillo received training and experience in experi-
mental methods directly applicable to beef cattle management,
breeding, and feeding, as well as pasture development, manage-
ment, and evaluation. He was also given the opportunity to become
fully familiar with the operation of large cattle ranches in central
and southern Florida. On his return to Costa Rica he assumed
management of the El Capulin Station, located on the Pacific low-
Luis A. Villalobos, MAI swine technician, arrived in Gainesville
on February 16, 1959, and departed from Florida on April 2, 1959.
His training consisted of reviewing the latest recommended prac-
tices of swine breeding, feeding, and management. Upon his return
he applied this new knowledge to improve swine in Costa Rica.
In March, 1959, J. Francisco Montoya, MAI agricultural econo-
mist, arrived for a four-week assignment to plan a land-use study
for the Cant6n of Atenas. He received training in sample design,
questionnaire construction, and analytical methods. Upon his re-
turn to Costa Rica, the Atenas field work was quickly completed.
Data gathered were later analyzed under the guidance of L. A.
Reuss, Contract land-use economist.
In February, 1960, Gregorio Alfaro, STICA agricultural econo-
mist, and Luis A. Salas, entomologist, University of Costa Rica,
16 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
arrived at the University of Florida. Alfaro's assignment was to
analyze 1959 potato sales data for the San Jos6 market and to
study the fundamentals of writing a research bulletin. His work was
supervised by Florida's R. E. L. Greene, agricultural economist,
who in 1958 had spent two months investigating potato marketing
in Costa Rica. Subsequent to Alfaro's return, a bulletin was pub-
lished reporting his findings.
Salas, who worked closely with experiment station entomologist
L. C. Kuitert when he was on a tour of duty in Costa Rica in 1956
to investigate the Mediterranean fruit fly, devoted much attention
to nematodes. In 1960 he visited Florida to observe how nematodes
are identified, gathered, and preserved for future study. Shortly
after his return, Salas was named Dean, Faculty of Agronomy,
University of Costa Rica.
The final participant to receive training in Florida under the
Contract was Guillermo Iglesias, a plant breeding specialist and
Director of the University of Costa Rica Experimental Farm. He
remained on the campus for six weeks to observe the southern
field pea experiments conducted by A. P. Lorz for the Florida
Agricultural Experiment Station. For several years previously
Iglesias had conducted field trials on numerous bean varieties in
the hope of discovering or developing one or more varieties par-
ticularly adapted to Costa Rican conditions, and he believes there
are areas in Costa Rica particularly suitable for southern field pea
production. His ultimate objective is to utilize his Florida experi-
ence through introduction of the southern pea to Costa Rica.
The Contract included provision for a limited number of analy-
ses of agricultural materials in University of Florida laboratories
for which facilities were not available within the Ministry.
Materials included both soil and leaf samples and dealt pri-
marily with problems encountered in the culture of coffee. Com-
plete analyses of soils, made at the University's Citrus Experiment
Station, revealed some unusually low percentages of exchangeable
bases. In 1957 Harold Mowry reported that field tests conducted
after receipt of these reports demonstrated the values of calcium
THE FLORIDA CONTRACT 17
and magnesium soil applications. He stated that the use of these
materials is now widespread and that their deficiency together with
that of some of the minor elements is now known to be the pri-
mary cause of the long-present cafe macho, a plant condition
wherein few flowers appeared and exceptionally low and unprofit-
able productivity was a natural consequence.
In the laboratories of the University's Soils Department several
analyses, both chemical and spectrographic, were made mainly
for determination of the minor elements. These analyses have
been particularly useful in the minor-element work with coffee,
initiated first in Costa Rica and now found applicable in many of
the world's coffee-producing regions.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA TECHNICIANS
Costa Rican government officials and others who are aware of
the nature of agriculture realize that comprehensive economic
studies are necessary for national planning and sustained economic
growth. In 1955 the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE), in
cooperation with MAI, embarked upon a comprehensive farm
management study. The services of D. E. Alleger were recruited
to assess the data secured from this study, and several Costa Rican
publications have resulted from his participation in the project. By
host-government request Alleger remained in Costa Rica for many
months beyond his original assignment to serve as a consultant to
the MAI Office of Planning and Coordination on a multiplicity of
problems confronting the government at that time.
Largely because of the Costa Rican government's awareness of
a low-income situation in the Cuenca Media, attention was focused
upon sugar cane, its leading cash crop, and one for which protec-
tive tariffs and price regulations are employed to bolster and pro-
tect local production. W. K. McPherson, agricultural economist,
appraised this situation and indicated that a shift in producing
areas is actually in progress and will doubtless continue. He recom-
mended (1) that farm reorganization be studied to take advantage
of this shift, (2) that research on sugar cane varieties, fertilization,
and irrigation be intensified, and (3) that potential markets for
sugar cane and possibilities for a sugar refinery be explored.
I U FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
As a group, local potato farmers had also long been beset by a
multitude of production and marketing problems. The Irish potato
industry is centered mainly upon the cool slopes of Irazfi volcano,
roughly at about 5,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level. In 1958
R. E. L. Greene, marketing specialist, made a reconnaissance survey
of this industry. It seemed to him that such factors as improved
seed at reasonable cost and control of diseases were essential be-
fore storage and marketing of potatoes could be greatly improved.
As a relief valve for heavily populated areas, much thought
has been directed toward the development of sparsely settled and
unsettled areas. In 1959, as one means of understanding problems
that inevitably follow unrestricted land settlement, the MAI em-
barked upon a study of one of the oldest counties in Costa Rica,
the Cant6n of Atenas. The study encompassed tenure, size of farm,
fragmentation of land holdings, farm income, and use of resources,
and was supervised by J. Francisco Montoya, MAI economist, and
assisted by Larry A. Reuss, a land-use Contract assignee. Findings
show that parcellation of lands has consistently taken place from
generation to generation. The researchers believe that a continuance
of this process has serious implications for the future scale and effi-
ciency of the agriculture of the area.
Costa Rica has many grasses and legumes, but grains are scarce
and pasture management in general can be greatly improved. One
of the essentials to a prosperous livestock industry, both beef and
dairy cattle, is an adequate supply of feeds throughout the full
yearly cycle. The MAI and STICA cooperatively developed a
strong pasture program while G. B. Killinger, agronomist, served
as an adviser. Its objectives were (1) better pasture management,
(2) introduction and testing of superior grasses and legumes, and
(3) determination of liming and fertilization practices to improve
herbage quality and carrying capacities of pastures. Forage and
pasture nurseries were established together with test plots for in-
troduction and fertilizer trials. Through the Florida Experiment
Station and USDA several hundred varieties or species of forage
or pasture plants were brought to Costa Rica for trial. From these
trials many plant introductions have proved adaptable and their
use is increasing.
THE FLORIDA CONTRACT 19
Pasture development work was continued by the Ministry, and
in 1958 W. G. Blue arrived in Costa Rica to help design and con-
duct pasture investigational studies for three physiographic areas.
Fertilization studies with pastures yielded valuable data for
observation and laboratory analysis. Forage yields were calculated
and protein analyses completed. In brief, conclusions drawn from
these experiments should greatly aid livestock growers throughout
the country in the management of their pastures and grass feeds.
Production of beef and dairy products is among the more im-
portant agricultural enterprises, and the country's land resources
are such as to permit great expansion. At three experiment sta-
tions the aims, in respect to the cattle industry, are for higher
production and upbreeding of herds through breeding, better
management practices, and improvement of feeds and pasturage.
In 1959 W. G. Kirk visited Costa Rica officially for the third time.
During an earlier visit he had prepared nine project outlines in
cooperation with MAI, STICA, and Food and Agriculture Organiza-
tion of the United Nations (FAO) technicians at either El Alto or
El Capulin or both. They dealt largely with pasture management,
feeds, and feeding. In 1959 he returned to evaluate the progress of
the beef cattle industry and to judge cattle at the Guanacaste Live-
stock Exposition, the 3rd Gran Exposici6n de Ganado de Bajura.
He found that the cattle showed a marked improvement over 1956,
which indicated an affirmative response to upbreeding and better
herd and pasture management.
Costa Rica's dairy industry is probably without par in Central
America. The Ministry maintains herd improvement testing, and
conducts an outstanding artificial insemination program. That man-
agement and feeds apparently are the factors most subject to
improvement is illustrated by the low milk production indicated
by census data. In 1956 S. P. Marshall conducted a survey of dairy
herd management and found strong evidence of deficiencies of
both calcium and phosphorus in some herds. A report prepared
by Marshall at the completion of his assignment was widely dis-
tributed among dairymen by the Ministry. Prior to his departure
from Costa Rica over 100 dairymen, at the Ministry's invitation,
met at the El Alto Station to hear Marshall's assessment of their
20 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
problems and his recommendations on ways and means of over-
Because of their economic importance, effective parasite and
disease controls are essential to the maintenance and normal ex-
pansion of the livestock and poultry industries. The Ministry's
Veterinary Department is well equipped and has an exceptionally
competent staff of doctors of veterinary medicine. Its functions and
responsibilities are quite broad. They include formulation, estab-
lishment, and enforcement of sanitary regulations, together with
those having to do with control of diseases of animals and poultry.
This Department also acts as a service agency in disease diagnosis
and treatment. Late in 1955 D. A. Sanders visited Costa Rica to
review the disease and parasite situation. He prepared several
detailed project outlines to cover research regarding Newcastle
disease of poultry and internal parasites, infectious bovine masti-
tis, and hemorrhagic septicemia of cattle. As a follow-up, an MAI
veterinarian received six months' guidance at the University of
Florida's Veterinary Laboratories.
According to the observations of Ralph W. Kidder, who was
in Costa Rica in 1959, deficiencies or toxicities from trace elements
can be considered as causes of a type of ill health or disease among
cattle. He states, for example, that a deficiency of magnesium in
the forage may be a factor contributing to grass tetany, which is
associated with a low content of magnesium in the blood. In 1953,
before the Florida Contract was developed, George K. Davis, a
Florida animal nutritionist, had visited Costa Rica at the invitation
of the MAI. The 40 forage samples he collected there and subse-
quently analyzed at Gainesville proved to be low in magnesium-
approximately a tenth of normal. His investigations were invaluable
in respect to the mineral content of Costa Rican forages, and both
he and Kidder, who followed him, believed experiments should be
developed to demonstrate good mineral mixtures for cattle feed.
Dairy producers are confronted with a relatively heavy produc-
tion of milk in the "wet season" and a lessening of production dur-
ing the "dry season." The Dos Pinos Milk Cooperative, in order to
maximize the use of milk produced, became a manufacturer of dairy
products. In 1957, in response to the request for advisory as-
THE FLORIDA CONTRACT 21
distance in plant and dairy improvement and operation, W. A.
Krienke spent about six weeks in Costa Rica. His observations in-
cluded an appraisal of dairy manufacturing conditions and opera-
tions, a survey of outlying areas as potential locations for cheese
manufacturing, the causes of a seasonal subnormal butterfat content
of milk, and inspection of market milk and ice cream plants. He
reported that good leadership in the dairy industry had already
brought about considerable advancement but that as the dairy in-
dustry grows, the need for properly trained technicians and workers
will rise. He outlined 12 specific points for the dairy industry to
consider in laying the groundwork for future growth.
About a year later the Dos Pinos plant was enlarged and rede-
signed for the manufacture of cheese. H. H. Wilkowske, a cheese
manufacturing specialist, arrived before the cheese-making equip-
ment was fully installed. Visiting both farm and small commercial
cheese manufacturers to acquaint himself with the national situation
and possibilities, he found that the typical "white" cheese sold by
farmers was quite popular in Costa Rica, but that it was made with
antiquated methods and equipment. One of the impediments to a
successful commercial yellow cheese enterprise in Costa Rica, as he
viewed it, was the relatively high cost of manufacturing milk. At
the time of his departure from Costa Rica the "first run" of yellow
cheese had not yet been made and many technical problems were
still to be resolved.
The initial research on nutritional phases of coffee, inaugurated
in Costa Rica in 1950, had been ably supervised by the late Harold
Mowry when with ICA. He and his co-workers had obtained signif-
icant and widely accepted results through the use of chemical
fertilizers as well as of lime under some conditions. However, be-
cause of the complexity of nutritional problems, MAI and STICA
deemed it advisable in 1956 to secure the services of a technician,
skilled in plant nutritional investigations, to assess the work in
progress and suggest ways to improve it. I. W. Wander, then with
the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station and a specialist in the
nutritional problems of citrus, was invited to Costa Rica to observe
coffee trees on farms. Wander visited many coffee farms in different
areas, and his recommendations were of marked usefulness, as
FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
Mowry reported, especially with regard to experiments and their
design which permitted evaluation of the comparative effectiveness
and worth of different sources of major and secondary elements.
Wander also outlined paralleling leaf or foliage analysis, made some
suggestions in respect to soils investigations, and, with G. M. Volk,
soils chemist, helped plan the equipping of a soils laboratory to be
erected on the campus of the University of Costa Rica.
Volk and Wander arrived at an opportune time to lend valuable
help in the interior planning of the modernly designed laboratory.
It was Volk's role to spearhead its development. Although much
had been accomplished in previous laboratory investigations, be-
cause of the totally inadequate MAI-STICA laboratory facilities and
the lack of experience in some of the needed lines of investigation,
laboratory investigations had been making slow progress.
After operations were transferred to the new laboratory made
possible by STICA, Volk's efforts were directed toward assisting
in the initiation and conduct of soils and other laboratory investi-
gations which, in a great measure, were tied into field fertility ex-
periments in agronomy and horticulture. His major contribution
was the introduction of laboratory techniques and methods and the
training of laboratory personnel to conduct fertility investigations.
Less than a year after Volk's departure, A. E. Kretschmer, Jr.,
went to Costa Rica to continue and extend the laboratory advisory
work started by Volk. Throughout his stay numerous laboratory
experiments progressed, mostly in connection with coffee nutrition
and fertilization. These experiments clearly showed patterns of
deficiency symptoms of elements as they appeared in coffee plants;
they helped establish feasible fertilizer recommendations and ini-
tiated methods of soil and plant analyses that aid in predicting the
fertilizer needs of plants. Many Costa Ricans were deeply impressed
by the work accomplished by the laboratory personnel, and a series
of publications have presented laboratory findings to the public.
Most Contract assignments were complementary to others. Two,
however, were rather distinct in that they dealt with virus diseases
of plants and the Mediterranean fruit fly.
Several important commercial crops of Costa Rica are attacked
by virus diseases. Little was known locally about them in 1956
THE FLORIDA CONTRACT 23
when M. K. Corbett, plant pathologist, served a short assignment
to offer training to MAI technologists in this specialized field. Cor-
bett prepared and gave a series of lectures in the use of techniques
involved in the study of plant viruses. These included symptoma-
tology, methods of transmission, relations of viruses and their
vectors, virus strains, serological relations of plant viruses, virus
diseases, and origins of viruses. These topics as presented enabled
the study, at an elementary level, of a virus disease regardless of
the species of plant from which the virus might be obtained. To
complement this series of lectures, laboratory demonstrations were
conducted with several types of viruses from local crop plants.
The Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata), perhaps the
world's worst fruit pest, is widely distributed in tropical and semi-
tropical regions, but until the time of its discovery in Costa Rica
in 1955 it was not known to be present on the North American
continent. In 1956 cooperative investigations were conducted by
Luis Salas and L. C. Kuitert, entomologists of the University of
Costa Rica and University of Florida, respectively. Investigations
included experiments with lures, poison baits, trapping to deter-
mine effectiveness of control sprays, and distribution of the fly in
the country, as well as a comprehensive program of spraying to
determine not only the most effective sprays but also concentrations
and timing applications. Investigations revealed that the fly popula-
tion builds up rapidly during the dry season and then materially
decreases with the progress of the period of heavy rains. The
preliminary finding of Kuitert and Salas produced information
essential for an eradication attempt. Unfortunately, however, ade-
quate resources were not available for an all-out eradication pro-
gram, and the fly slowly widened its habitat.
At the conclusion of his assignment, each Contract technician
prepared a complete report of his activities. These reports, pre-
sented in considerable detail by the individual authors in the chap-
ters which follow, cover the various fields of aid-agricultural
economics, agronomy, animal husbandry, animal diseases and para-
sites, animal nutrition, dairy manufacturing, soils, plant pathology,
FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
and entomology. In the preparation of this symposium no thought
has been entertained of detracting from or minimizing the attain-
ments of STICA, MAI, and the other cooperating organizations or
institutions; rather the purpose has been to amplify these joint
accomplishments in order that this historical documentation may
serve as tangible evidence of a successful cooperative effort toward
better international relationship.
Without exception, University assignees readily adjusted to their
foreign posts despite the fact that customs, traditions, and govern-
mental processes were somewhat alien to their North American
customs. Throughout the Contract period their advice, assistance,
and suggestions were well received by the Costa Rican technicians,
and the morale of both groups remained high, with no instance of
friction or of apathy toward the work and efforts of the assignees.
The feeling of mutual respect and confidence which contributed to
this very favorable working relationship, however, was due not
only to the efforts of Contract and Costa Rican technicians but also
in great measure to the cooperative and helpful spirit evinced
throughout by the administrative officials of the MAI, STICA,
USOM, and the University of Florida.
Very satisfactory relationships also existed between the assignees
and the faculty of the local College of Agriculture and the repre-
sentatives of the international organizations FOA and Organism6
Internaci6nal Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaria. The Turrialba
Inter-American Institute of Agricultural Sciences also generously
extended its facilities and cooperation to aid in the successful com-
pletion of the Contract.
RECOGNITION OF CONTRACT SERVICES
From time to time during the Contract's existence the admin-
istrators at the University of Florida received letters of apprecia-
tion from the MAI for the Contract and its staff members. An
excerpt from one such letter follows:
The influence which the personnel of the University of Florida has
exercised on our work programs is tremendous. In short, all the techni-
THE FLORIDA CONTRACT
cians who have come to the country have been persons with a vast
amount of knowledge and a surprising ability for adaptation, having
gained the confidence not only of their co-workers but also of the
farmers and cattlemen who often ask if such-and-such a technician is
still in the country.
The University of Florida is proud of a trophy presented to it
in 1957 by Romano Orlich, Head, Department of Animal Hus-
bandry, in the name of the El Alto Experiment Station. This tro-
phy, now on display in McCarty Hall, has an attached plate which
bears the names of all assignees who had served tours of duty in
Costa Rica up to that time. On a more personal note, W. A.
Krienke was presented a medal by the Dos Pinos Milk Cooperative
at the completion of his assignment as a token of appreciation for
his assistance to the dairy products industry.
Perhaps no North American agriculturist ever won the hearts of
the "Ticos" as did the late Harold Mowry, the Contract's first Chief
of Party, who through ICA devoted over half a decade toward the
advancement of Costa Rican agriculture. His sincerity and un-
qualified dedication to his assignment and to the Contract earned
him the praise of all who knew him. Early in 1958 his friends and
co-workers were deeply saddened by an illness which forced him
to lay aside a long life of duty and service. As a token of appre-
ciation the technicians of the MAI and STICA jointly presented
him with a gold medal, and with it his friends and admirers ten-
dered him a signed scroll which included among the many other
names those of three former Ministers of Agriculture and Industry.
For such tokens of esteem the University will be forever grateful,
and in return it thanks ICA for providing it with an opportunity to
serve Costa Rica for a brief span in history.
1. D. E. Alleger, "Agricultural Economic Assignment to Costa Rica," Univer-
sity of Florida Contract Termination Report (San Jos6: STICA, Dec. 1957), p. 8.
2. Banco Central de Costa Rica, Ingreso y Producto Nacionales de Costa Rica
(San Jos6, 1956), p. 87.
3. J. Wayne Reitz, then Provost for Agriculture and now President of the
University of Florida, was the first to serve in this capacity.
DANIEL E. ALLEGER
C osta Rica faces a formidable task in its efforts to
maintain consistent economic growth. As of 1950,
when the last general census was taken, the nation's 36,500 resi-
dent and 6,600 absentee farm operators produced a gross national
agricultural output of 0605 million, which approximated 47 per
cent of the gross national product. This sum excluded income from
forestry and forestry products. By the end of 1956 the global value
of agricultural production was estimated at C674 million, an in-
crease of 11.4 per cent over that of 1950.1 For the same six-year
period the Costa Rican population rose by 25 per cent, and, accord-
ing to estimates, it continues to rise by over 4 per cent annually.
THE ECONOMIC SETTING
In 1955 the MAI, ICE, and several other national agencies initi-
ated well-planned agricultural economic research. Invited in 1956
to participate in an advisory capacity, the writer continued for
nearly four years as agricultural economic consultant to the MAI
Office of Planning and Coordination, which was ably staffed by
Alvaro Rojas E., its head, J. Francisco Montoya, in charge of
economic studies, and their co-workers. Throughout this period a
number of other national agencies were interested in, and dealt
with, agricultural economic data. Among its other duties the Banco
Central de Costa Rica calculated the gross national product, in
which abundant use was made of agricultural statistics. A com-
modity purchasing and price regulatory body, called the Consejo
Nacional de Producci6n, compiled a great many agricultural facts
and figures needed for its operations. The MAI Office of Planning
and Coordination, as previously mentioned, had a section devoted
to economic investigations. Two educational institutions, the Uni-
versity of Costa Rica and the Turrialba Inter-American Institute of
Agricultural Sciences, supported teaching and/or research interests
in agricultural economics. STICA/Costa Rica, of the ICA, had
several host-country agricultural economists on its payroll, as had
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS 27
several other international and local organizations. Individually or
collectively their activities, and in some degree those of the writer,
encompassed many facets of the nation's economy, some of which
are described briefly on the following pages. Others are reviewed
elsewhere in the symposium.
FERTILITY AND MAN-LAND RATIOS
In studying the balance of population in relation to national or
regional economic resources, consideration must be given to natural
resources, to present and potential economic development, and to
how these factors fit into a broad developmental plan. At present
Costa Rica gears its economy to exportable agricultural products,
coffee and bananas, chiefly, although its leaders are seeking ways
and means to lessen dependence upon a dual crop economy. More-
over, the nation probably possesses untouched economic potentials
in its sparsely settled areas, whose nature and extent only time can
Taken as a whole, Costa Rica cannot be said to be overpopulated,
but in the highlands signs of man-land pressures are evident. From
the time of the first population census until the last, that is, from
1864 until 1950, Costa Rica's population increased without appar-
ent abatement. The ratio of the number of children under 5 per
1,000 women from 15 to 44 rose by nearly 9 per cent during this
period to a fertility ratio of 739 (Table 1). In 1950 the ratio of the
urban population was 543 as against 866 for rural areas.2
TABLE 1.-FERTILITY RATIOS BASED ON THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN UNDER 5 PER
1,000 WOMEN 15-44 YEARS OF AGE FOR COSTA RICA
1864, 1883, 1892, 1927, AND 1950
Number of Number of
Year Children Under Women Fertility
5 Years 15-44 Years Ratios
1864 19,838 29,207 679
1883 29,733 42,704 696
1892 38,759 56,733 683
1927 73,686 107,181 687
1950 132,635 179,412 739
Calculated from data in Censo de Poblacion de Costa Rica, 1950, pp. 14 and 19.
28 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
Today the need for the expansion of agricultural production is
evident in view of a rapidly growing population. In 1950 one
economically active and two inactive rural residents were reported
for each 3.1 acres of arable land. The range in man-land ratios was
from a fraction of an arable acre in Heredia Province to 7.2 acres
in Guanacaste Province. Since the country is dominated by agri-
culture and high birth rates it is possible for a situation to result
in which technological advances in agriculture are actually thereby
retarded. Too many people in the labor force may mean too much
reliance upon hand labor and too little upon labor-saving devices.
Measurements of productivity of farm workers shed light on
differences in agricultural opportunity between provinces, assum-
ing productivity is a measure of opportunity. In the two tropical
export crop provinces of Lim6n and Puntarenas, the 1950 esti-
mated annual compensation paid to workers and employees en-
gaged in agriculture was highest, or over $300. It was lowest,
or $165, in Guanacaste Province, known as the extensive livestock
region. Annual payments to farm workers in the coffee areas ap-
proximated $200 per year, but it should be understood that some
farm work, such as coffee picking, is of a seasonal character. Yet
in every province, the average annual earnings of farm workers
were too low to permit savings sufficient for capital accumulation.
Another measure of productivity is the gross value of agricul-
tural products per year per agricultural worker. For the nation as
a whole, the average gross value of production per worker in 1950
was $628, and ranged from $377 in Guanacaste Province to $1,214
in Puntarenas (Table 2).
Hand labor is the principal source of work power employed on
Costa Rican farms (Table 3). This results in a low average pro-
ductivity per unit of labor. However, it should be noted that farms
operated by mechanical power only rose from 232 to 784 between
1950 and 1955, and with a combination of animal and mechanical
power from 220 to 653, according to Census reports.
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS ZY
TABLE 2.-AVERAGE GROSS VALUE OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS PER YEAR PER
AGRICULTURAL WORKER, BY PROVINCES, COSTA RICA, 1950
Area Value per Worker
Costa Rica 4,161 $ 628
Puntarenas 8,050 1,214
Heredia 6,326 954
Lim6n 5,930 894
Cartago 3,953 596
Alajuela 3,186 481
San Jose 2,880 434
Guanacaste 2,500 377
Source: Banco Central de Costa Rica, Ingreso y Producto Nacionales de Costa
Rica, 1950, Table 48, p. 103.
TABLE 3.-TYPE OF WORK POWER USED ON FARMS, COSTA RICA, 1955
Work Power Used NUMBER
NUMBER PER CENT
Hand labor only 38,922 82.3
Animal power 6,927 14.6
Mechanical power 784 1.7
Animal and mechanical power 653 1.4
Total 47,286 100.0
Source: Censo Agropecuario, 1955, p. 340.
The average per capital disposable income in 1950 approximated
01,300 ($196 USA). Since this average included large incomes
realized by a small segment of the population, the average dispos-
able income of the laborer was still less. Hence, the bulk of the con-
sumers could not buy those products (Table 4) which would greatly
TABLE 4.-ESTIMATED HOURS OF LABOR REQUIRED TO PURCHASE SELECTED FOOD
ITEMS, COSTA RICA, 1957*
Hours of Labor
Item Unit Required
Butter 1 lb. 4.7
Coffee 1 lb. 4.0
Eggs 1 doz. 4.0
Beef (steak) 1 lb. 3.0
Sugar 5 lbs. 2.7
Milk 1 qt. 1.0
Rice 1 lb. 0.8
Beans 1 lb. 0.8
*Based on Costa Rica's labor code of q1.00 ($0.15 USA) per hour for com-
mon labor and on estimated food prices in Costa Rica, 1957.
30 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
stimulate production and raise the over-all value of agricultural
This example highlights the fact that an economic paradox is
created by underconsumption and high prices. Low-income people
generally consume only cheap energy foods. These foods consist
principally of cereals, potatoes, and other plant foods rather than
meat and animal products. It has been determined that as per capital
purchasing power increases people eat more animal products and
less plant food. In total consumption they eat no more, but the
kinds and quality of the products consumed are very different.4
Changes in eating habits by Costa Ricans could set the stage for
shifts in the use of agricultural resources as, for example, away
from corn for human consumption to corn as feed for livestock and
poultry, changes which would register improvements in living
LEVEL OF LIVING
The concept of level of living refers to goods, services, and op-
portunities. It consists of material possessions that people have,
of economic opportunities available to them (employment which
reflects income), and of goods and services they use and consume.
As such it is diagnostic of real income or of money available for
consumption. Level of living, as used herein, is based on a national
average of 100 as measured by several variables (Table 5). That
TABLE 5.-AVERAGE INDEX OF LEVEL OF LIVING BY PROVINCES, COSTA RICA, 1950*
Costa R ica............................................................................... .................... ...... 100
San Jos .................................................. ............................ ......... ............................ 146
Lim6n....................................................... ............................ 135
Puntarenas...................... ...... ..................................... ...................... ....... 102
Heredia.................................. ........................................................ .............................. 86
Cartago............................................................................... ............................... ......... 77
A lajuela......................................................... ............................... ............................. 56
Guanacaste......................... ..................................................................................... 41
*Calculated from data in the 1950 Censo de Poblaci6n and 1954 Censo Urbano
de Edificios y Viviendas. The index was based on four variables measured in rela-
tion to the total population in each province. They were (1) number in the
economically active population, (2) number of private family dwellings, (3) num-
ber of homes with electric services, and (4) number of homes connected with
either sewers or septic tanks.
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS 31
it reflects by comparison the average well-being of all families in
each of the seven provinces against the national average does not
indicate, however, that all families in a low-level-of-income prov-
ince are equally poor. As a matter of fact, the distinction between
rich and poor may be more sharply marked in provinces with low-
level-of-living scores than in those with high scores.
When level-of-living scores were correlated with fertility ratios
or productivity measures their interrelationships were pronounced.
For example, Guanacaste Province had the lowest level-of-living
score, its fertility ratio was among the highest, and its per capital
agricultural productivity was the lowest. When various diagnostic
data for Costa Rica were compared in this fashion it became evi-
dent that the nation's internal economic problems and the solu-
tions for them were differential.
In recent years Costa Rica has created numerous semigovern-
mental autonomous organizations to regulate and control many
segments of national life. The government is now directly involved
in activities such as the generation of electricity, the operation of
a railroad, banking institutions, home financing, social security,
commodity purchasing, and price control, among others. Collec-
tively the autonomous institutions exercise powerful regulatory
forces over the lives of all Costa Ricans. There is no question but
that individuals have thereby yielded to the state a considerable
measure of their economic freedom in the interests of the general
welfare, but popular sentiment upholds this institutional arrange-
If the population and productivity data previously presented
appear pessimistic, it is only because they indicate the magnitude
and nature of the economic problems facing one small nation, and
it is for this purpose only that they were given. As a matter of
fact, economic progress in Costa Rica is a dynamic and observable
phenomenon. There is no need to resort to statistics to appreciate
it. It is evident on farms where tractors rumble over broad fields
from before sunup until after the darkness of evening. It is experi-
32 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
enced by untold low-income farm families who enjoy running water,
piped to their homes at government expense. It is dramatic in the
capital city of San Jos6 where European and American automobiles
and motorscooters vie in congested traffic with bicycles and pedes-
trians for highway space. It is registered in smiles of contentment
on the faces of residents of all social classes. The most significant
factor is that virtually all this economic uplift has its origin either
directly or indirectly in agriculture.
Statistics are very helpful in documenting what the eye can see.
In 1955 around 12 per cent of the farmers applied commercial
fertilizer to over 150,000 acres of farmland, which indicates that
many farmers are actually following the recommendations of spe-
cialists. From 1950 to 1956 the global value of agricultural and
forestry production rose by nearly $13 million USA. This gain took
place as the value of the banana crop dropped from C196 to 0135
million, or by C61 million. This loss was offset by large gains in
the livestock industry, from coffee, from crops produced for national
consumption, and from forestry products. Increased agricultural
production is not the only indicator of growth. Costa Rican techni-
cians planned, engineered, and financed a new hydroelectric plant,
called La Garita, which became operational in 1958. Between 1955
and 1960 the number of persons or companies handling agricul-
tural products, vehicles and accessories, machinery, hardware, and
pharmaceutical supplies continued to rise. Income from furniture,
shoe, and textile manufacturing also increased considerably. San
Jos6 is constantly leveling old landmarks to make way for the new
and modern. New motion picture theatres together with the older
establishments enjoy a heavy patronage. In spite of these visual
signs of prosperity, some citizens fear that rapid increases in the
national population will eventually add new increments to the
labor force faster than they can be absorbed, thus mitigating the
present prosperity. Others view prosperity as a continuing and
expanding fact, in which population increases play no small part.
The 1950 Census (Censo de Poblaci6n) reported a national
population of 800,875, which was estimated to have grown to
1,135,000 by February, 1960. In view of rapid increases in popula-
tion-between 4 per cent and 5 per cent annually5-and the limita-
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS 33
tion of arable land in settled areas, dispersion of some of the
highlands population to underdeveloped areas is considered on
the highest planning levels. Still some thousands of people have
anticipated the government and have "squatted" on open virgin
lands. In settled farm areas, others are accepting technological in-
novations in efforts to boost per-acre production. Fertilization of
selected crops is now commonplace, the use of insecticides, herbi-
cides, and disease control materials is spreading, and many farm-
ers are importing registered beef and dairy cattle to upbreed their
THE RURAL ECONOMY
The country is characterized by steep mountains, deep valleys,
swift-running streams, and several distinct climatic zones. Nearly
two-thirds of the population live in the cool highlands, and the rest
are scattered throughout the Atlantic and Pacific tropical zones. It
is a nation of small landowners who take deep pride in their
educational attainments and in their freedom of spirit. In 1950
approximately 55 per cent of the economically active population
was employed in agriculture and related activities, and 68 per cent
of the 43,086 farms enumerated were under 50 acres in size. On
the upper extreme, for 40 farms the average size was more than
6,000 acres, and for 23 large farms, approximately 30,000 acres.
A large percentage of the highland areas is covered by deep
layers of highly productive volcanic soils. The high mountain
slopes support one of the best dairy production centers in Central
America. A vast variety of crops and fruits can be grown through-
out the country because of climates which range from cool to hot
tropical. Rainfall is adequate in the highlands, overabundant on
the Atlantic lowlands, and totally lacking for six months out of the
year in the Pacific zone, but ample the rest of the time. The rug-
gedness of the country presents formidable obstacles to transporta-
tion and communication, and thereby restricts the assembly and
marketing of farm crops from some areas. Approximately 75 per
cent of the farmers market their farm products on foot, by beast, or
by oxcart. Some areas, however, which are now difficult of access
hold great promise for the future.
Ancient methods of
with modern to open
remote areas to
S .... trade and travel
The total value of Costa Rica's agricultural production (including
forestry) for 1950 amounted to ?652 million, and in 1956 to C736
million (Table 6). The 1950 agricultural income represented 50
per cent of the gross national product (V1,298 million). The two
main export crops were, and still are, bananas and coffee. Live-
stock, sugar cane, annual, and cereal crops fashioned the back-
ground of the domestic economy. In dollar value, cacao and abaca
also were important and copra returned small amounts of income
to numerous entrepreneurs.
TABLE 6.-GLOBAL VALUE OF SELECTED ITEMS IN AGRICULTURAL AND LIVESTOCK
PRODUCTION, COSTA RICA, 1950 AND 1956*
Global Value of Production
Agricultural Products (millions of colones)
Export crops 337.6 314.2
Domestic crops 117.3 143.5
Livestock 44.9 69.6
Livestock products 79.5 99.3
Other farm products 25.1 47.0
Forestry products 47.6 62.1
Total 652.0 735.7
Source: Banco Central de Costa Rica, Seccidn Ingreso Nacional, Departamento
de Estudios Econ6micos.
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS 35
In the highlands, coffee is the principal cash crop both for owners
of large estates and for operators of small farms. In interprovincial
trade, cereal crops, sugar cane (sugar), plantains, and Irish pota-
toes rank high in total dollar value. Very many exotic tropical
products however, also find their way to the market stalls in the
various cities. Most of these crops are produced on small owner-
operated farms. In respect to livestock and livestock products,
farmer interest impinges primarily upon beef cattle, milk, and milk
Commercial banana production is most extensive on the Pacific
coast near Golfito and Palmar Sur, but other lands on or near the
Caribbean are in similar use. On both coasts the undertakings are
highly organized, adequately capitalized, and under corporation
management. For these reasons government economists have not
concerned themselves with the economics of banana production.
Aerial tramway car-
ries United Fruit ba-
nanas across the
FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
Coffee production, in contrast, receives serious attention from
all segments of the domestic front. Bankers and others consistently
strive for improvement in production credit which often finds its
way from the banking institutions to small operators through own-
ers of processing plants, called beneficios. Although cost data for
coffee are extremely limited, no comprehensive cost studies had
been planned or undertaken as late as 1960.
Cacao, while a minor export crop, is important to many low-
income farmers. Present cacao plantings are confined mainly to the
Atlantic zone, a name applied to the lowlands adjacent to or drain-
ing into the Caribbean Sea. Many of the trees now in production
are at least half a century old, of seedling stock, and have an un-
certain future. In many instances good management of groves is
wanting. Various diseases have made serious inroads, drains are
often neglected or are nonexistent where needed, and present fer-
mentation and drying processes require a vast amount of hand
labor. As with coffee, economic interest has centered mostly upon
sources and management of production credit. At present the MAI
and ICA (STICA) have numerous plant improvement and disease
control experiments under way which in time should help to im-
prove the income of growers.
The production of abaca, like that of exportable bananas, was
for some years a large-scale corporation undertaking, but opera-
tions were recently curtailed.
Cereal crops-corn, rice, and beans-are of major economic
importance on the domestic market. They are known in govern-
ment circles as the basic food crops. A great deal of research is yet
needed, in spite of results to date, to introduce new and improved
varieties of cereals or cereal substitutes which meet with consumer
acceptance. The Consejo Nacional de Producci6n buys grains dur-
ing good years to guard against disasters of floods, droughts, and
other causes of crop failure and, to a limited extent, to provide
protein supplement for livestock feeds.
Sugar annually ranks next to the cereal crops in value. For the
year ending June 30, 1956, approximately 8,400 tons of sugar were
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS 37
imported for local consumption. McPherson then estimated the
annual per capital consumption of sugar around 100 pounds.6 From
a labor-utilization viewpoint sugar cane and coffee have long been
recognized as complementary crops in parts of the Meseta Central.
Under a hand-labor agricultural economy this combination has
great merit. However, 1956 sugar prices to consumers were above
the world average (81 cts. per lb. USA), and were maintained at
high levels to reward low-income farmers who had few obvious
income alternatives. Much attention has been given to diversifying
cash crops on low-income sugar cane farms, but adequate substitutes
for sugar cane have not yet been found.
The gross value of the plantain and other bananas included in
the national diet approached $3 million USA in 1956. The various
bananas used for cooking, frying, and baking are products that
small-scale family farmers can produce economically, and often in
combination with coffee.
Irish potatoes are grown principally on the steep slopes of Irazfi
Volcano and on the mountains near Zarcero. Approximately 3,000
acres were planted to potatoes in 1955. Production was estimated
at 225,250 bushels (135,125 quintals), or around 75 bushels per
acre. Unpublished data supplied by the MAI indicate that per capital
annual consumption of potatoes ranges from 15 to 30 pounds. Sev-
eral economic studies aimed at improving potato production and
marketing were completed between 1956 and 1960.
Oranges and avocados, chayotes, pumpkins, and similar prod-
ucts, tomatoes, yuca, onions, and pineapples in the order named are
among the more important miscellaneous food crops. Floriculture
flourishes on the cool hillsides of Iraz6. In addition, production of
flue-cured tobacco for domestic use augments the cash incomes for
the operators of many small diversified farms in several areas. In
many sections forestry products, which approached $10 million
USA in 1956, provide considerable income to farmers and non-
LIVESTOCK AND ITS PRODUCTS
Approximately 97,000 cattle (ganado engorde) were slaughtered
for consumption in 1956. Another 18,000 animals were exported
38 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
on the hoof, principally to Colombia, Peru, and to the islands of
Curacao and Aruba. Animals are sold at wholesale merely as cows,
steers, bulls, and oxen. Except indirectly, quality meat cuts by
grade have not received serious attention on local markets. The
annual per capital consumption of beef in 1956 was estimated at
about 45 pounds.
In 1956, 61,000 hogs were slaughtered. The average was about
60,000 per year from 1950 to 1955, inclusive. Pork production is
generally a back-yard enterprise. In the 1950 census, 22,694 farms
reported 115,078 animals on their farms. Most consumers regard
pork cuts as luxury items, and annual per capital consumption is
probably not over 5 to 10 pounds per person. Since crop-hog sys-
tems of farming are not traditional in Costa Rica, it may require
considerable experimentation before know-how is attained. The
MAI, through the leadership of Luis A. Villalobos, is develop-
ing a swine-improvement program.
Of all livestock products, dairy products earn the highest gross
revenue. Estimates of per capital milk production in Costa Rica
vary, but in a 1960 publication Alfaro reported that it may approach
400 pounds annually.7 However, per capital consumption of fluid
milk is probably under a half-pound daily, since about 56 per cent
of all milk produced is used on farms for either livestock feed,
home use, or dairy products for sale, and much of the market milk
is sold as ice cream or butter, or is converted into nonfat dry milk.
Production of poultry and eggs can be greatly expanded. A con-
siderable amount of poultry, both live and dressed, is offered to
consumers at city markets, but relatively high prices restrict move-
ment to consumers. In 1950 poultry production averaged a little
over one bird (ave de corral) per person, and egg production
around two eggs per week per person. Opportunities exist for a
greatly expanded poultry and egg market if prices can be brought
within the purchasing ability of thousands of potential consumers
(Table 4) who otherwise must forego these items.
IMPACT OF POPULATION INCREASES
When current population trends are projected into the future, a
picture emerges of eventual food requirements, land resources
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS 39
needed, and possible population pressures, among others. By 1966
Costa Rica may expect a total population of 1,651,000 as compared
to 800,875 in 1950, if present population trends continue. The 1966
forecast is based upon the assumption that the estimated current
rate of population growth will continue until 1966-a forecast
which could be altered if birth, death, and migration rates change.
But if this estimate does materialize and if crop production and
technological levels remain constant, then the amount of arable
farmland needed in 1966 will approach 640,000 manzanas, or
nearly double that of 1950. On the other hand, an upswing in
production per acre would decrease the per capital requirements of
arable land and lower per unit labor requirements, the objective of
some MAI programs now under way. If the rate of agricultural
growth surpasses that of population growth it will either stimulate
off-farm migration or, in lieu of that, create vast areas of rural
underemployment and rural poverty. The answers lie in planning
now to meet the eventualities of several decades hence.
The total land area of the country's 43,086 farms approximated
4,500,000 acres in 1950. Almost half the acreage, or 44 per cent,
was reported in woods, in second growth, or in scrub growth. Nearly
35,000, or 81 per cent of all farms, were operated by owners. In
1955, owners accounted for only 75 per cent of the 47,286 farm
TROPICAL EXPORT CROP AREAS
New land resources available for tropical export crops are found
largely in the Tropical Moist Forest Formation, a formation con-
taining nearly 6,000,000 acres.8 The largest area stretches from
Lake Nicaragua along the San Juan River to the Caribbean Sea
(Atlantico), thence southward to the Panama border. Another area
reaches from the Panama border along the Pacific Ocean north-
westward throughout most of Puntarenas Province.
Present export crops found in this formation are bananas, cacao,
and abaca. African oil palm is grown in Puntarenas Province, the
oil being used for locally manufactured products. The formation is
40 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
also favorable for such specialty crops as the pejibaye fruit. In the
wetter parts of the formation, rubber production offers promise as
a result of breeding and disease research in the Atlantico. Accord-
ing to specialists an export lumber industry is a possibility.
COFFEE PRODUCTION AREAS
Coffee production has long been centered in the Subtropical
Moist Forest Formation. The favored elevations are between 1,500
and 4,500 feet above sea level where rainfall averages between 40
and 80 inches annually. Average temperatures range between 60
and 800 F. The greater portion of the highly productive soils in
the formation are of recent volcanic origin. Altogether about 800,-
000 acres are included.
A narrow band of Subtropical Moist Forest extends along the
western side of the Guanacaste Cordillera. Pockets of good soil are
also found in the adjacent Subtropical Wet Forest on the eastern
slopes of the Continental Divide. The writer has penetrated the
forests on the eastern slope and believes that some parts of these
mountains are also suitable for coffee.
FOOD CROP AREAS
There are various future food crop production possibilities. Most
of Guanacaste Province lies in the Tropical Dry Forest Formation.
Included therein is an area paralleling the Tempisque River which
has great potentialities for sugar cane production. The land lends
itself to mechanized systems of farming because of level topography,
easily tilled and managed soils, and an abundance of water for
irrigation.9 Good roads now traverse the heart of this region.
Cereal acreages must also be expanded if Costa Rica is to keep
abreast of its food needs. The Tempisque Valley is a potential area
for cereal crop production, and a considerable amount of rice is
now produced there. Parts of the Tropical Moist Forest are also
believed to be suitable for cereals, but here the drying of grains
for storage becomes of economic significance. Research is needed
regarding drying, grading, and storage of grains on farms. All in all,
however, Costa Rica has the potential to more than produce its
domestic cereal needs.
Felling a tree
Towing a log
yields millions of
$USA annually to
Numbered and loaded
Aboard ship for USA
42 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
The two principal dairy regions are known as the North Dairy
Region and the South Dairy Region. Milk is usually produced at
the cooler altitudes which are favorable for both dairy cattle and
pasture production (4,000 to 4,500 feet above sea level). Peterson
and West stated, "The basic problems of the area are to increase
the carrying capacity of the pastures and increased milk pro-
duction through better control of the quality of feed concentrates."10
The Valle del General surrounding San Isidro, thence along the
mountains to the Sabanas de Cabagra and Potrero Grande near
Buenos Aires, are considered as likely areas for dairy development.
These areas roughly parallel the Subalpine Moist Paramo and are
being opened to motor transportation by the Pan American high-
way. Milk production will have to nearly double the 1956 output
by 1966 if per capital levels of production are to be maintained. If
per capital consumption is greatly increased, demand for new pas-
ture lands will be vastly stimulated.
An extensive beef cattle farming area lies almost entirely in the
Tropical Dry Forest Formation in Guanacaste Province. Annual dry
and wet seasons are of about equal duration. Expert management
is required to maintain pastures of good grazing quality during the
dry months. Future development of the Subtropical Wet Forest and
parts of the Tropical Moist Forest to the south of Lake Nicaragua,
especially in the foothills of the Cordillera, offer promising possibili-
ties for expansion of the beef cattle industry. Much of this area is
now in virgin forests. Rains are adequate during every month of
NATIONAL LAND POLICY
In 1955 the then Minister of Agriculture, Bruce Masis D., pre-
sented to the National Assembly a plan for land settlement. The
basic objectives outlined in the proposal were the following:
1. To promote an equitable system of land distribution and to main-
tain it with an improved and gradual exploitation, and to regulate
usage of all National Reserves.
2. To strive for the gradual improvement of the living conditions of
rural workers and the stabilization of their families through an
economical and rational exploitation of the soil.
La Libertad, a land
in the Llanuras de
According to the proposals, all lands not privately or publicly
owned would belong to the federal government and would be known
as National Reserves. The proposal recognized that the time had
arrived when a national land policy must be adopted. An effort was
made both to forestall large latifundia holdings and to prevent par-
celing of land into units too small for profitable operation.
The proposal advanced was that in awarding National Reserve
lands to citizens the parcels granted should be large enough to
provide security; to conserve, develop, and improve the land; to
produce efficiently the food, fiber, and vegetable oils needed for
national consumption, and to improve the economic well-being of
the nation as a whole.
The time of abundant free land is nearing an end. Private acqui-
sition of open land by squatting or through adverse possession will
become more difficult in the years ahead. Recognizing these prob-
lems the government, in cooperation with ICA, promoted a three-
month survey in 1959 to determine the feasibility of planned land
settlement.11 Two of the major proposals forthcoming were that
settlers should be guided by agricultural extension specialists and
financed through controlled credit.
GENERALIZATION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
In 1955 the ICE, in cooperation with the MAI, conducted a farm
management survey of 371 farms in the Cuenca Media del Rio
Grande de Tarcoles. The writer participated in several analytical
44 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
phases of this study. So far as could be ascertained this was the
first farm management study undertaken in Central America to be
wholly planned, financed, and carried out nationally.
The average total capital invested per farm in the Cuenca Media
was 088,260 ($13,312 USA) and ranged from C2,050 to e2,202,-
000, according to Benavides of ICE.12 He classified 42 per cent of
the farmers as coffee producers, 16 per cent as sugar cane pro-
ducers, 15 per cent as producers of annual crops, and the remain-
ing as diversified farmers. More than half (56 per cent) of the
operators partially financed their operations through the use of
agricultural credit. Only 5 per cent reported gross incomes in excess
of C50,000, and 36 per cent earned less than C5,000. Eighty-two
per cent of the operators were farm owners, 53 per cent had less
than five manzanas (8.6 acres) of land under cultivation, and 66
per cent of the operators employed hand labor exclusively in the
production of their crops.
In another phase of the study Montoya and Alleger analyzed
sugar cane farm operations.3 They found that highest labor in-
comes from sugar cane production were realized on lands which
ranged in value from C5,000 to C6,000 per manzana ($425 to
$520 per acre). In general, farm incomes were too low to permit
savings for capital accumulation, and systems of diversified farm-
ing where coffee was combined with sugar cane and other crops
earned the highest average farm incomes. It seemed unlikely that
sugar produced from sugar cane grown on steep mountain slopes,
and largely with hand labor, could ever compete successfully on
the world market.
Another use put to the Cuenca Media data was to determine a
rather simple method for determining cash costs of production.
The method had to be easy enough to be understood by a farmer
with a limited amount of education. Briefly stated, it entailed tabu-
lating all annual cash outlays (out-of-pocket expenses) for farming
and then subtracting their total from the total annual cash income
from farming. The difference was termed net income. The data,
prepared by Gregorio Alfaro, were released by STICA in Spanish
with explanatory notes.
It was assumed that if a farmer applied this type of analysis to
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS 45
the production of any given crop enterprise it would reveal to him
how much cash he had to put in his pocket during or at the end
of a farm year. For illustrative purposes the average results obtained
for 176 coffee farms are shown in Table 7.
TABLE 7.-CASH COSTS AND RETURNS PER MANZANA, 176 COFFEE FARMS, CUENCA
MEDIA DEL Rio GRANDE, COSTA RICA, 1954
1. Farms reporting-....................... ...............................num ber 176
2. Average size of farm................................. ...................... manzanas* 21.7
3. Area of coffee under cultivation......................................manzanas 6.5
4. Sale per manzana of coffee harvested.............................fanegast 10.2
5. Percentage of farm income derived from coffee.......... 83.6
Out-of-Pocket Costs (Total Farm Expenses) Average per Manzana
6. Hired labor.............. ........................ 326.53 77.8%
7. Fertilizers and lime........................................ .. 41.39 9.8
8. Livestock purchases................... ............................... 13.35 3.2
9. Transportation....................... .. ..... ........ 11.58 2.7
10. Insecticides and fungicides................... .............. 5.79 1.4
11. Gasoline, oil, and grease-........................ ...... ..... 5.17 1.2
12. Licenses, taxes, and insurance........................ ........... 3.30 .8
13. Repairs (machinery, etc.)............................................... 3.23 .8
14. Seeds and plants........... .. ...... .......... ...... 1.06 .3
15. M miscellaneous expenses......................................---8.43 2.0
16. Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses............................... ... 419.83 100.0%
Cash Farm Income
17. Gross income e.............................. ......... 1,155.42
18. Cash expenses (line 16)....................................... 419.83
19. Net cash income (line 17 less 18)................-.. ............ 735.59
Source: Gregorio Alfaro y otros, "Costos e Ingresos de 176 Fincas de Caf6, en
La Cuenca Media del Rio Grande, Provincia de Alajuela," mimeographed (MAI
y STICA, 1960).
*1 manzana = 1.727 acres. tOne fanega yields 100 lbs. dried coffee beans.
Cost of production studies and the determination of labor and
materials required for given crops are always given considerable
attention because banks need these kinds of data in determining
agricultural credit policies and practices. Farmers also need them
to analyze their farm enterprises.
In 1958 Mario C6rdoba summarized and classified per-manzana
costs for producing Irish potatoes in the Cartago area. He reported
that production and harvesting costs averaged around e2,950 per
manzana, of which C2,700 were expended on production and e250
on harvesting. These total costs were equivalent to $258 per acre.
Net returns averaged C1,000 per manzana ($87 per acre). C6rdoba
46 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
reported that potato farmers who, by and large, depended upon
hand labor to produce their crops, applied around 700 hours in the
production and harvesting of one manzana (400 hrs. per acre), a
factor which contributed to high per-unit costs.
This study was followed by an appraisal of the potato industry,
including a review of marketing practices. R. E. L. Greene, who
conducted the survey, concluded that disease-free seed at lower
than prevailing costs was needed and that potato diseases had to
be brought under effective control before the marketing of pota-
toes could be greatly improved.14
As a result of Greene's survey during his 1958 two-month tour
of duty, two potato production experiments for 1959 were planned
and carried out. The objectives were to (1) determine ways to
lower costs of commercial production, (2) improve processing
methods for handling and assembly, and (3) compile market price
data on the wholesale and retail levels for one year. Difficulties
arose which prevented the completion of the study in detail as
planned, but much valuable information was gained.
R. A. Pendleton, STICA Agronomist, prepared the experimental
design for the growing experiments. One experiment was located
at approximately 5,000 feet and the other at 6,500 feet above sea
level on owner-operated farms. The selection of two elevations was
to test the differential effect of altitude and climate on potato dis-
eases. Both experiments were designed for three types of disease
control: (1) conventional spraying (very wet), (2) mist spraying,
and (3) dusting. Cut and uncut tubers were used for each of four
varieties: Kennebec, Harford, Estrella, and Morada Blanca. Each
major experimental plot was subdivided into 72 subplots of approxi-
mately 10 by 40 feet. This permitted complete replication of all
When harvesting data became available Pendleton made the fol-
lowing statistical calculations of the results.
At the 5,000-foot elevation no statistically significant difference
was found from (1) seed cutting, (2) seed cutting correlated with
either disease control treatment or varieties. Differences were
significant as between disease control treatments alone, spraying
being far more effective than dusting. There was a significant differ-
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS 47
ence as between varieties, and between cut and uncut seed within
varieties. Disease damage averaged exceedingly high.
At the 6,500-foot level disease damage was much less. Here it
was found that, as at the lower elevation, disease control treat-
ments were significant, as were differences between varieties. In
contrast to the 5,000-foot experiment, at the higher elevation seed
cutting alone and seed cutting correlated with disease control were
significant. Cut seed of the Estrella variety out-yielded uncut seed
at 6,500 feet.
W. J. Wiltbank, STICA Horticulturist, in company with Oscar
Gar6falo, MAI Pathologist, participated in the harvesting studies
and in observing disease infestations. A small sample (5 lbs.) was
selected from each of the 72 subplots at both elevations for storage
observations and was stored under somewhat unfavorable condi-
tions at El Alto (600 to 800 F. temperatures) at normal humidity.
Nevertheless, results indicated that storage of locally grown potatoes
can be practiced if an effort is made to store only healthy tubers."1
This research indicated that an elevation above 6,000 feet was
more favorable for potato production in Costa Rica than at 5,000
feet. It was found that cut potato seed can be used if tubers are
disease-free and suberized before planting. This lowers seed costs
considerably. Mist spraying gives favorable results. It reduces the
quantity of water that must be carried by laborers, and thus lowers
the amount of labor required for spraying. The use of acceptable
cut seed and mist spraying properly applied can be safely recom-
mended for potato growing at an elevation of over 6,000 feet. Some
varieties (Kennebec and Harford, to name two) have better mar-
keting qualities than two long-established local varieties (Estrella
and Morado Blanca).
Price records of 1959 wholesale potato sales at Cartago were
gathered for several months by Mario C6rdoba. Also, retail prices
on the San Jos6 market were recorded by major varieties by
Gregorio Alfaro for 52 weeks. Subsequently these data were ana-
lyzed at the University of Florida by Alfaro under the guidance of
Greene.16 Partially as a result of the several economic studies men-
tioned, and more especially because of the annual potato intro-
duction and breeding experiments conducted by the MAI, better
48 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
knowledge has developed in respect to seed production practices,
disease controls, and marketing of potatoes.
FUTURE RESEARCH NEEDS
Obstacles to progress in agriculture are mostly of a technical
nature since problem solving requires a foundation of research
knowledge. Kinds of agricultural economic research now needed
for short-run improvements are the following:
1. Cost of production studies for all major crop and livestock enter-
2. Information on basic labor and material requirements for all
major crops as required for credit purposes and for eventual linear
3. Use of agricultural credit to expand or restrict agricultural
4. Means for introducing modern agricultural production and mar-
keting methods to replace the traditional and obsolete.
5. Ways to improve assembly and transportation of crops and
Long-run economic progress relates to cultural attributes and
human settlement. Land-tenure practices rank next to education in
determining rural social behavior. Long-run policy objectives
should include research into:
1. Land-tenure practices and objectives.
2. Utilization of land to raise human productivity and purchasing
3. Utilization of technical knowledge and new discoveries to increase
agricultural production per unit of land area.
4. Development of agricultural statistical information needed for
public policy planning.
The prosperity of Costa Rica is directly dependent upon agri-
culture. Agriculture, however, cannot operate in isolation because
national well-being requires simultaneous attention upon both indus-
trial and agricultural development. Without large, known reserves
of oil, precious minerals, coal, or iron, the expansion of industrial
activity becomes most difficult. This situation is further intensified
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS 49
by the fact that Costa Rican agriculture does not provide sufficient
income for substantial widespread capital accumulation.
Costa Rica is too small a country both in size and monetary re-
sources to afford extensive duplication and competition in research
effort. It therefore becomes a matter of organization to determine
the wisest use of money, manpower, and priority in research under-
takings. Each nation must determine for itself what organization is
best in the conduct of its affairs, research included. However, it is
the opinion of the writer that greater accomplishments could be
achieved with the manpower now engaged in research and with the
money now expended upon it if all agricultural research were
centralized and coordinated.
In spite of the achievements in many phases of agricultural re-
search in Costa Rica to date-and they are noteworthy for a nation
its size-much more research is needed. Research still to be done
includes studies of new seed varieties, fertilizers and fertilization,
insecticide controls, use of new tools and machinery, production,
assembly, distribution and sale of farm products, to name only a
few. The possibility of excessive pressures of population on land
as a fixed factor must also be recognized. A nation must think in
terms of levels of living and food supplies. Moreover, any lasting
solutions must be consistent with national historic values and be
acceptable to the society affected to insure personal freedom and
protect rights regarded as inalienable-a firm foundation upon
which to plot the future growth of the nation.
1. D. E. Alleger, "Agricultural Economic Assignment to Costa Rica," University
of Florida Contract Termination Report (San Jos6: STICA, Dec., 1957).
2. D. E. Alleger, "Problems in Agricultural Resource Adjustment," University
of Florida Contract (San Jos6: STICA, Dec., 1957). Mimeographed.
3. Alleger, "Agricultural Economic Assignment to Costa Rica."
4. Theodore W. Shultz, The Economic Organization of Agriculture (New York,
1953), p. 46. Shultz reports that the consumption of food in the United States,
measured in terms of retail weight equivalent, was 1,476 pounds in 1909 and
1,573 pounds in 1949, yet the North American people were substantially richer
in 1949 than in 1909.
5. La Gaceta (July 4, 1957) published a 4.92 per cent rate of population
growth. Forecasts were based on this rate.
FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
6. W. K. McPherson, "Report on Land-Use Problems Inherent in the Develop-
ment of Costa Rica's Sugar Industry," University of Florida Contract (San Jos6:
STICA, 1957). Mimeographed.
7. Gregorio Alfaro, "The Dairy Situation in Costa Rica" (San Jos6: MAI and
STICA, 1960). Mimeographed, 23 pp.
8. J. R. Hunter, "An Agricultural Land-Use Plan for Costa Rica" (San JosB:
STICA, 1953). Unpublished.
9. See report, "Tempisque Valley Project Investigations" (Washington: USDI,
Bureau of Reclamation; Costa Rican MAI and STICA, 1955). Mimeographed.
10. Arthur W. Peterson and Quentin M. West, Agriculture Regions of Costa
Rica (Turrialba: I. I. A. S., 1953), p. 14.
11. The International Development Service, New York, under contract with
12. Oscar Benavides, Estudio Agricola-Econdmico de la Cuenca Media del
Rio Grande (San Jos6: ICE, 1956). See also "The Agriculture of the Rio Grande
River Section of the Central Plateau, Costa Rica, with Special Emphasis on Coffee
Farms" (Master's thesis, Cornell University, 1957).
13. J. Francisco Montoya y D. E. Alleger, Organizacidn y Operacidn de Fincas
de Cafia (San JosB: MAI Bol. 20, 1957).
14. R. E. L. Greene, Estudio Econdmico de la Produccidn y del Mercado de
Papas en Costa Rica (San JosB: MAI Bol. Tec. 20, 1958).
15. D. E. Alleger, "The Development of Agricultural Economic Research in
Costa Rica," University of Florida Contract Termination Report (San Jose:
STICA, 1960). Mimeographed.
16. R. E. L. Greene y Gregorio Alfaro, Elemplo de Variacidn en Los Precios
de La Papa, Mercado de San Jose (San Jose: MAI y STICA, Inf. Tec. 11, 1959).
WILLIAM K. McPHERSON
Land-Use Problems in the Sugar Industry
essentially, all the sugar consumed in Costa Rica is
produced from cane grown in the country and proc-
essed in domestic trapiches or ingenios. The market for this sugar
is isolated from the world market by (1) the imposition of a high
duty on the importation of sugar, and (2) fixing the price con-
sumers must pay for sugar at levels somewhat above the price that
would prevail if sugar produced in other countries could be pur-
chased freely. The government sanctions only enough foreign trade
in sugar to stabilize the domestic price it fixes for sugar from year
In response to the prices consumers pay for all forms of sugar
in the domestic market, farmers decreased land area used to pro-
duce cane and the amount of cane produced from the 1950-51 sea-
son through the 1953-54 season (Tables 1 and 2). Both the area
planted in cane and the amount of cane produced increased some-
what during the 1954-55 crop year and probably still more during
the next two years. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that this increase has
been large enough to much more than offset the decline that took
place earlier. In contrast to the trend in cane production, the
amount of sugar produced in the country reached an all-time high
of more than 700,000 quintals in 1953, and then fell off sharply.
From 1950 to 1955, sugar was exported but during the next two
years it was necessary to import (Table 3).
From 1950 to 1957 the number of ingenios increased from 21 to
26. The yield of sugar per ton of cane varies widely from ingenio
to ingenio. Part of this variation is due to variations in the
amount of sugar in the cane and part is due to variations in the
efficiency with which the ingenio extracts the sugar from the cane.
As a result of these two variables, the price that individual pro-
ducers receive for cane differs more than 10 per cent every year
and sometimes as much as 20 per cent (Table 4). Farmers either
sell their cane to an ingenio or make dulce in their own or a neigh-
TABLE 1.-SUGAR PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION IN COSTA RICA*
Sugar Content Sugar Content Sugar Sugar Content Estimated
Cane of Cane of All Cane Actually of Cane Used Dulce
Cane Area Harvested Harvested Harvested Produced to Produce Production
Year (manzanas) (tons) (average quintalss) quintalss) Dulce quintalss)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1950-1951 32,356 816,350 197.05 1,608,618 458,578 1,150,040 1,352,988
1951-1952 34,853 829,388 204.09 1,692,698 613,064 1,079,634 1,270,158
1952-1953 29,354 834,654 187.56 1,565,477 683,174 882,303 1,038,003
1953-1954 24,023 614,941 185.77 1,142,376 733,481 408,895 481,053
1954-1955 28,782 674,153 195.85 1,320,329 702,063 618,266 727,372
*Calculations based on data supplied by Estadistica y Censos and Junta de la Cafia.
TABLE 2.-SUGAR PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION IN COSTA RICA*
1950-51 1954-55 z
Estimated Estimated Estimated Estimated Estimated 5
Dulce Annual Per Sugar Content Estimated Per Total Sugar
Dulce Purchased Capita of Dulce Total Capita Consumed
Year Purchased for Human Estimated Consumption Consumed Consumption Sugar (pounds per W
by F.N.L. Consumption Population of Dulce Per Capita of Sugar Consumption capital) m
quintalss) quintalss) (pounds) (pounds per (pounds) (pounds)
1 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1950-51 21,702 1,331,286 838,084 159 135t 45,857,800 55 190
1951-52 32,526 1,237,632 868,741 142 121t 51,259,900 59 180
1952-53 22,070 1,015,933 898,329 113 96 50,976,200 57 143
1953-54 34,167 446,886 933,033 48 41 63,768,000 68 109
1954-55 16,664 710,708 969,640 73 62 52,378,900 54 116
1955-56 1,014,170 69,764,200 69
1956-57 1,054,170 73,339,000 69
*Calculations based on data supplied Estadistica ye Censos and Junta de la Cafia.
tThese high estimates of apparent consumption are probably due to an insufficient conversion of cane to dulce when the value n
of dulce was relatively lower.
54 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
TABLE 3.-EXPORTATION AND IMPORTATION OF SUGAR IN COSTA RICA,
1950-51 TO 1956-57
Year EXPORTATION IMPORTATION
1950- 1951 ......... ............
1951- 1952 100,465 ..........
1952- 1953 173,412 ............
1953 1954 95,801 ............
1954- 1955 178,274 .........
1955- 1956 ............ 168,881
1956- 1957 ............ 100,438*
Source: Junta de Proteccidn a la Agricultura de la Cafia.
TABLE 4.-FARM PRICE IN COLONES OF CANE PER TON, BY INGENIOS,
1950-51 TO 1955-56
El Congo (Coffee
Ojo de Agua
1950-51 1951-52 1952-53 1953-54 1954-55 1955-56
45.91 43.00 40.80
45.83 44.83 40.50
45.83 39.90 39.13
50.55 45.31 40.50
Source: Junta de la Caifa.
Boiling sugar cane
juice to make
bor's trapiche, depending on the relationship that exists between
the price of cane and dulce, which is constantly changing because
the price of dulce is determined in a free market while the price of
sugar is fixed (Table 5). The steady increase in the free market
price of dulce from 1951 through 1956, a period in which the price
of sugar remained fixed, caused the farmers to reduce the amount
of cane they sold to the ingenios and increase the amount converted
to sugar in the form of dulce. In short, fixing the price of sugar did
not fix the price of all the sugar produced in the country, and the
increase in demand for all sugar in the country caused the price of
sugar in the form of dulce to rise to, and slightly above, the price
of sugar late in 1956. Early in 1957 the price of sugar was raised
five centimos per pound, with about 57 per cent of this increase
going to farmers.
Pouring soft brown
sugar into molds.
Each dulce cake
weighs 2.2 ponnds
TABLE 5.-VALUE IN COLONES OF (A) ONE TON OF PROCESSED CANE INTO DULCE AND OF (B) ONE POUND OF SUGAR IN FORM m
OF DULCE, BY MONTHS AND YEARS, 1952-57
Value-One Ton of Processed Cane by Months*
J F M A M J J A S O N D
1952 84.00 83.00 80.50 78.00 80.75 84.00 85.25 84.50 83.50 85.50 84.75
1953 83.50 77.75 74.75 76.00 74.50 83.25 80.50 79.75 76.50 81.25 77.50 77.50
1954 78.50 78.50 75.50 74.50 74.25 76.50 79.25 78.00 79.75 87.50 96.25 90.25
1955 86.75 82.00 81.00 83.50 84.00 81.25 88.00 89.50 95.50 107.25 115.25 109.25
1956 114.75 107.25 99.50 102.75 104.25 102.75 102.25 104.25 103.00 113.25 109.25 106.50
1957 112.50 105.00 106.00 104.50 105.75
Value-One Pound of Sugar in Form of Dulcet
Sugar Price 0.50
1952 0.395 0.391 0.379 0.367 0.380 0.395 0.401 0.398 0.393 0.402 0.398
1953 0.393 0.366 0.352 0.358 0.351 0.392 0.379 0.375 0.360 0.382 0.365 0.365 M
1954 0.369 0.369 0.355 0.351 0.349 0.360 0.373 0.367 0.375 0.412 0.453 0.425
1955 0.408 0.386 0.381 0.393 0.395 0.382 0.414 0.421 0.449 0.505 0.542 0.514
1956 0.540 0.505 0.468 0.484 0.491 0.484 0.481 0.491 0.484 0.533 0.514 0.501 "
Sugar Price 0.55
1957 0.529 0.494 0.499 0.492 0.498
*Assuming 250 pounds of dulce are produced from one ton of cane.
tCalculated by dividing the price of dulce per pound by 0.85, since dulce contains approximately 85 per cent sugar.
LAND-USE PROBLEMS IN THE SUGAR INDUSTRY
All of the refined sugar produced in Costa Rica is "plantation
white." For many consumers this is an acceptable substitute for
pure granulated sugar. On the other hand "plantation white" does
not store as well as pure sugar and cannot be used as extensively
in processing food products.
The Problem.-Costa Rica is now confronted with the problem
of determining what relationship to maintain between the supply of,
and demand for, sugar in the future. The first step in resolving this
problem is to reconsider what the long-run policy of the country
with respect to sugar production should be. If there is no possibility
that within the foreseeable future Costa Ricans will be able to pro-
duce profitably the several forms of sugar (dulce, plantation white,
and granulated) at world market prices, it will be necessary to
adopt a quite different policy. This is a basic question of policy
that the people of this country must resolve through their demo-
Since the kind of sugar policy Costa Ricans adopt will depend
upon how efficiently sugar cane can be produced domestically, that
aspect of the problem will be examined first. This will be followed
by an evaluation of the alternative policies that might be adopted.
Finally, several activities that might accelerate the development of
the domestic sugar industry, regardless of what policy is adopted,
The Cost of Producing Cane.-The fact that the Consejo Nacional
de Producci6n finds it necessary to set the price of sugar above the
world price and that this price is not yet high enough to stimulate
the production of any more sugar than was produced in 1950, is
prima facie evidence that the cost of producing domestic sugar at
the present time is high in relation to cost of producing it else-
where, and/or other crops enable farmers to earn high profits. The
relatively high cost of production can be attributed to various
combinations of the following situations:
1. Much of the nation's cane is being produced at relatively high
altitudes where it requires from 15 to 18 months to mature.
2. The topography of a large amount of land now used to produce
cane precludes the use of modern efficient planting, cultivation, irriga-
tion, and harvesting equipment.
u8 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
3. The distance over which much of the cane is transported, coupled
with the small quantities hauled in each load, makes the cost of assem-
bling the cane at the ingenio excessively high.
4. The size of the land holdings and the capital resources of many
cane producers are too small to permit efficient production.
Most of the high-cost cane production is on the small farms
located in the Meseta Central. In this area, farmers are shifting
from sugar to coffee production on land that will produce coffee.
On the other hand, five new ingenios have been built since 1950,
all located outside the heavily populated areas around San Jose,
Heredia, Alajuela, and Grecia. Furthermore, all of them are located
along the Atlantic side of the Continental Divide where the rain-
fall is heavier and the climate generally more favorable for sugar
In the newly developed cane producing areas, it is quite pos-
sible that sugar producers can compete in the world market. How-
ever, there are large areas of unused land in the country with more
of the characteristics of land upon which cane is being grown prof-
itably in other parts of the world. These characteristics are the
1. Temperature. A range of temperature which makes it possible to
mature a crop of cane in from 10 to 12 months.
2. Soil. Soil responsive to fertilization. To the extent the soil con-
tains plant food, the cost of producing cane can be reduced for a few
years until this natural fertility is used. However, a high level of natural
soil fertility is not a requisite for efficient cane production over a sus-
tained period of time.
cane to rural sugar
LAND-USE PROBLEMS IN THE SUGAR INDUSTRY 59
3. Water. Relatively large amounts of water available either in the
form of (a) rainfall distributed according to the requirements of the
growing plant, or (b) irrigation water that can be provided at rates that
4. Topography. Land sufficiently level to permit (a) economical
irrigation and drainage, and (b) the use of mechanized soil preparation,
planting, cultivating, and harvesting machinery.
5. Size of production unit. Production units large enough to permit
the operator to use his time and equipment efficiently.
6. Size of production. Production units located near enough to the
ingenio to minimize the cost of transportation.
7. Access. Available transportation facilities consisting of some com-
bination of highways, railroads, and navigable waterways.
A large amount of land in Costa Rica has the first six of these
seven characteristics. This land is located along both coasts of the
country, much of it at elevations of less than 100 meters. How-
ever, only a small percentage of this land can be used to produce
sugar cane until it is made more accessible by the construction of
highways, railroads, or port facilities. At present, the only acces-
sible areas are those which lie along the Tempisque River where a
new road has just been built and west of the Inter-American High-
way, just north of Puntarenas. Along the Pacific coastal plain, south
of Puntarenas, there are several areas in which the distribution of
rainfall appears to be even more favorable for cane production than
in the northern portion of the plain. In the Quepos, Palmar Sur,
and Golfito areas, the rainfall is ample to grow cane, and the dry
season is relatively short. The rainfall in the Atlantic areas is also
ample but the dry season is so short (if it exists at all) that there
is some question about how well cane will mature there. Neverthe-
less, ingenios are being built in that area just as rapidly as land
reasonably well suited to the production of cane is made accessible.
Sugar could be produced profitably in Costa Rica at world mar-
ket prices if sufficient capital were invested in the industries.
Whether this capital is invested depends upon (1) whether roads
are built to make suitable land accessible, and (2) the national
sugar policy. The question of the economic feasibility of road build-
ing is outside the scope of this report. Some of the economic con-
sequences of alternative tariff policies are outlined below.
FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
A High Protective Tariff.-The maintenance of domestic prices
of sugar at levels above those that would prevail if Costa Rica
were allowed to trade in the world market constitutes a method of
subsidizing those who produce sugar cane and sugar. At the cur-
rent rate of consumption, this subsidy amounts to more than $700,-
000 for each centimo the domestic price is maintained above the
price that would prevail in the world market.
The subsidy received by the sugar industry is divided between
the farmers who produce the cane and the ingenio owners who
convert it to sugar. The formula now being used to determine the
price the ingenios must pay for cane suggests that somewhat more
than half the subsidy goes to the farmers. If the report is true
that more than half the cane used to produce sugar is produced by
ingenio owners, the small independent farmers who sell cane to the
ingenios receive less than one-fourth of the subsidy being received
by the industry. On the other hand, these farmers benefit by the
increasing of the price of dulce caused by holding a fixed price on
sugar. The bulk of the subsidy on sugar accrues to the benefit of
the larger and more efficient cane producers and the owners of the
ingenios. Obviously, then, the maintenance of a high protective
tariff on sugar cannot be a very effective method of increasing the
level of the cane farmers who have relatively low incomes.
Subsidizing the sugar industry and raising the domestic price as
the demand for sugar increases (1) encourages small farmers who
are not producing cane efficiently to remain in the industry, and
(2) delays the time at which more efficient farmers and ingenio
operators make the more drastic changes in their operations that
will enable them to produce sugar cane and sugar efficiently enough
to earn profits at world market prices. In short, maintaining a tariff
protection on sugar without taking action which will reduce the cost
of producing sugar and eliminate the need for the tariff will retard
the economic growth that would normally take place under pre-
vailing competitive conditions in the world sugar market.
Removal of the Protective Tariff.-Removal of the protective
tariff on sugar would result in a reduction in the price of sugar to
consumers, which would encourage them to buy a somewhat larger
quantity, but the total amount expanded for sugar would be some-
LAND-USE PROBLEMS IN THE SUGAR INDUSTRY
what less than under the protective tariff policy. The additional
money consumers would have, because of the lower price of sugar,
would be spent on other consumer goods and thus contribute to
raising their level of living. On the other hand, removing the pro-
tective tariff on sugar would cause (1) some cane farmers to shift
their resources to the production of other crops, and (2) some
ingenio owners to liquidate their capital facilities and to invest
them in sugar equipment located in more profitable cane produc-
tion areas or in other economic enterprises. In the short run these
shifts would reduce the income of both groups and depreciate the
value of some capital goods. Over a long period of time, however,
the sugar industry would be more efficient and the nation as a
whole more productive if a free trade in sugar policy were adopted.
Under such a policy, the industry could expand manyfold to create
national wealth by exporting sugar. The amount the sugar industry
would contribute to the economic well-being of the nation would be
further enhanced if the sugar produced in Costa Rica over and
above the amount needed to satisfy the domestic market could be
exported in the form of manufactured goods such as candies and
preserves, which entail a substantial amount of domestic labor.
As the growth of Costa Rica's sugar industry makes it increas-
ingly desirable to remove the protective tariff, the removal should
be slow enough to permit farmers and ingenio operators to reor-
ganize the use of their resources with a minimum cost. In fact, it
might be well to allow a lapse of at least ten years between the
time it is decided to remove the tariff and the time all protection is
withdrawn. As Costa Rica develops a sugar industry sufficiently
efficient to produce profitably at world prices, some of the farmers
and ingenio operators now in the industry will acquire land with
the characteristics that enable them to produce sugar more effi-
ciently and will move their operations. In other instances, new pro-
ducers will enter the industry at the more favorable locations. At
the same time, however, it is quite unlikely that cane production on
the Meseta Central will increase rapidly enough to make cane pro-
duction entirely unprofitable within the next few years. In fact,
some farmers in these areas will probably continue to produce cane
to provide a means of using labor efficiently.
o2 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
In summary, the shift in the location of sugar cane production
will continue to take place in an orderly manner. As the individuals
and firms that comprise the industry make these changes, they will
be striving to increase these profits. To help them do so, the follow-
ing four general educational and study programs would be of aid.
1. The cane producers could be advised where and how cane can
be produced most economically and how to reorganize their farms
to take advantage of these factors.
On the Meseta Central, many small farmers may find cane pro-
duction becoming less and less profitable. On the other hand, as
the population and per capital income of the country rises, the
demand for other agricultural crops will increase. These commodi-
ties can be produced profitably on small farms because they give
the owners an opportunity to market their labor as well as the
product. By shifting to some of these crops now, farmers can avoid
the consequence of the major shift in the location of the sugar in-
dustry that is now getting under way. Emphasis should be placed
on keeping the hill and mountain sides in grass and using the flat
land for row crops.
Another aspect of this program might be devoted to demonstrat-
ing how cane producers who own the kind of land and capital re-
sources required to produce cane efficiently can do it profitably.
This is particularly important in the newly opened production areas
where the sugar cane culture is not so well known as it is on the
2. An intensive program of research on the varieties of cane
and the amount of water and fertilizer that will maximize profits
from sugar production would stimulate the investment of capital in
the most desirable areas.
The objective of this work would be to determine the relation-
ships existing between the physical input and output of sugar,
which would, in turn, be useful in determining how to maximize
profits under different cost-price situations. This research could be
most effectively carried on by a team of scientists with training in
soils science, agronomy, hydraulic engineering, and economics.
The data are needed for at least four locations along the Pacific
LAND-USE PROBLEMS IN THE SUGAR INDUSTRY
coastal plain and at least two locations in the flat lowlands of the
Atlantic plain. It might be desirable for the Turrialba Institute
to inaugurate a joint program of this type on the Pacific plain, with
all of the countries in Central America participating.
3. A study of the potential market for pure granulated sugar
and the possibilities for erecting a factory to produce it would help
attract capital for such a venture if it is economically feasible.
Costa Rican ingenios are now producing almost enough sugar to
provide the raw materials for a sugar refinery that would produce
pure granulated sugar. The extent of the consumer demand for
sugar in this form should be determined. Also, it is important to
find out what kind of food-processing industries could be estab-
lished if pure sugar were available at world market prices. To the
extent that it is possible to export any sugar above the amount
needed for domestic consumption, it would be highly desirable to
export it in the form of processed foods such as candies, which use
domestic labor to produce. Marketing a combination of agricul-
tural and human skills would result in a higher return to the nation
than would exporting agricultural raw materials for other people
to process into consumer goods. If Costa Ricans plan to refine sugar
for use in domestic food-processing plants, it would be wise for
such a plant to be located in the Meseta, perhaps alongside the
liquor factory, where economies in facilities and power might be
effected by a joint operation. On the other hand, if sugar is the
commodity to be exported, a crystallizing plant located at a seaport
would be more logical. The ingenio owners could establish an enter-
prise of this kind simply by investing their depreciation reserves in
a new business venture rather than improving the crystalline phases
of their own plants. The new plant would use the centrifugal sugar
produced by the ingenios.
4. Studies designed to define the capacities and recharge rates
of the water storage reservoirs under land suitable for cane pro-
duction would help prospective investors determine whether the
supply of irrigation water is ample.
A study of this type is needed in the Tempisque River Valley
where the supply of surface water is ample for major expansion in
the production of agricultural commodities but not for the develop-
64 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
ment of the entire valley. Similar studies of other major river val-
leys may be needed. An accurate estimate of how much water can
be pumped in each area without lowering the water table is needed
before intensive agricultural development programs can be under-
taken. This is especially true for the production of sugar cane, a
crop that is highly sensitive to the amount of water available. The
fact that much of the cane produced profitably in other parts of the
world is irrigated emphasizes the importance of water to the sugar
R. E. L. GREENE
Irish Potatoes: Production and
Potato producers and dealers in Costa Rica are faced
with many problems in the production and market-
ing of potatoes. One is producing a uniform-quality product under
the existing difficulties in controlling insects and diseases, as well
as the difficulty and expense of obtaining improved seed. A second
problem is the wide fluctuation in prices at different periods of the
year at three levels-farm, wholesale, and retail.
Both potato producers and buyers are dissatisfied with the pres-
ent potato situation. For several years potato growers in the Cartago
area requested an economic investigation of potato production, han-
dling, and marketing because of the low net returns received. At
the request of the MAI an economic study was initiated in 1958 to
obtain information which would aid in increasing efficiency of pro-
duction and marketing and which would improve internal and ex-
port marketing practices.
Since it was impossible in a short period to assemble detailed
statistics relating to the potato industry or to make a thorough
analysis of the problems involved, an effort was made to make a
general survey of the situation to identify some of the problems
and adjustments needed to improve efficiency of production and
the marketing system.
Following the preliminary investigations, plans were made to
conduct studies during 1959 to determine the effects of improved
practices on production costs and returns and to compile weekly
data for one year on prices paid to farmers for potatoes at Cartago
together with wholesale and retail prices on the San Jos6 market.
This report deals mainly with the general survey of the industry
and pattern of movement and prices of potatoes in the San Jos6
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ENTERPRISE
The main potato production is located in the North Central Dairy
66 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
Region.1 The crop is grown principally on the southwest slope of
the Irazfi Mountain at elevations of 1,800 to 3,000 meters. A small
production area is located on the slope of the South Central Moun-
tain Range in the vicinity of Zarcero.
Period of Harvest, Annual Production, Utilization, and Value.-
Some potatoes are harvested each month of the year but the major
harvest is in September, October, and November (first planting or
winter crop). The second important harvest period is in March,
April, and May (second planting or summer crop).
In 1950, according to the Census of Agriculture, potatoes were
grown on 729 farms.2 Manzanas harvested totaled 2,086 and pro-
duction, 153,250 quintals (8,529 cargas).' Eighty-three per cent
of the total production came from the first planting. Only 58 per
cent of the farms on which potatoes were grown in 1950 were
located in the Cartago Province. However, this area accounted for
79 per cent of the manzanas harvested and 85 per cent of all pro-
duction. The Alajuela Province contained one-fifth of the farms on
which potatoes were grown but accounted for only 13 per cent of
the manzanas harvested and 9 per cent of the total production.
Area in potatoes in 1955 was estimated at 2,183 manzanas.4
Estimated production was 194,089 quintals (10,783 cargas). This
was an average production of 90 quintals per manzana. Production
for 1955 was 26 per cent more than that reported for 1950. Eighty-
three per cent of the production was from the first crop.
Estimates of amount of potatoes produced and population (1,-
055,200 on December 31, 1957) indicated a production of only
about 20 pounds per capital. Assuming that 30 per cent of the total
crop was used for seed, fed to livestock, or culled, the amount avail-
able for human consumption was about 14 pounds per capital.
Practically all sales are for fresh consumption. Data from potato
chip manufacturers would indicate they use about 5,000 quintals
per year, or only 3 to 4 per cent of the total amount available for
In terms of global value, potatoes account for only about 1 per
cent of the value of agricultural products at the present time.
Practically all income is from sales for use in the country, as only
a small quantity is exported. During the five-year period 1953-57,
IRISH POTATOES: PRODUCTION AND MARKETING PROBLEMS
potatoes were exported in 1956 and 1957. The largest export was
in 1956 but the amount was only 1,034 quintals. Costa Rican pota-
toes should be able to compete in the Central American market if
an effective trade union between the countries is formed.5 An in-
crease in local consumption as well as export of potatoes would
add to the gross income not only of the country but also of potato
producers. However, before exports can be increased, quality of
the potatoes produced will have to be improved. Relative prices of
potatoes will also have to be reduced to make them more competi-
tive with other foods in local markets and with potatoes from other
areas in foreign markets.
The bulk of potatoes are produced from three native varieties:
Estrella, a white potato; Morada Blanca, a white potato with dark
eyes, and Morada Negra, a dark, red-skin potato. Data for 4 re-
tailers in the San Jos6 market for the period November 3, 1958, to
October 17, 1959, showed that these varieties made up 91 per
cent of their total sales. Of the sales for the three varieties, 42 per
cent were Estrella, 33 per cent Morada Blanca, and 25 per cent
Only a small proportion of the potato crop in Costa Rica is from
improved varieties. Both producers and buyers seem to be especially
pleased with Kennebec and Harford, the two most important im-
proved varieties. Yields from these are normally one-fourth to one-
third more than from native varieties. They bring a premium in the
market of 50-150 colones per carga. Factors limiting the expansion
of improved varieties are the very small supplies of planting seed
available and the high cost per manzana for improved seed.
DISEASES AND INSECTS
Potatoes are subject to damage by various diseases and insects.
The occurrence and destruction from these causes depend upon
the weather and the conditions under which the crop is grown. No
information is available on the amount and value of crop losses
from these causes. Observations would indicate that the amount is
quite large, with plant diseases accounting for the major share.
68 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
The most common and destructive disease is late blight, caused
by the fungus Phytophthora infestans. Locally it is known by the
name of mancha, tiz6n, chamusco, or chasparrea. Brown rot
(Bacterium solanacearum), or bacterial wilt, is the second most
destructive plant disease. It causes considerable damage to pota-
toes, especially at elevations below 2,200 meters, where approxi-
mately a third to a half of the crop is grown. This disease is known
as maya or dormidera.
There are a number of virus (virosa) diseases present in potato
fields, especially different mosaic diseases and leaf roll, which are
spread by transferring (mainly by insects) the virus present in the
sap of a diseased plant to a healthy one. Virus diseases reduce both
yield and quality and also contribute to the degeneration of the
The most important insects attacking potato plants are flea
beetles (Epitrix), leaf hoppers (Empoasco), aphids, and leaf mi-
ners. The local names for these insects are pulguitas, cigarritas,
afidos, and minadores, respectively. The main insects damaging
tubers are wireworms and cutworms (gusano-alambre and corta-
PRODUCTION PRACTICES AND COSTS
The topography of land on which potatoes are grown varies from
generally rolling to very steep. On most farms all operations are
performed by hand except breaking land, preparing it for planting,
and hauling the potatoes from the field. Oxen are the main source
of power but a few farmers own or hire tractors for land prepara-
tion. Production practices vary mainly with elevation, season at
which the crop is planted, and varieties grown.
MATERIALS USED IN PRODUCTION
Data on labor and materials and costs of producing potatoes were
obtained from potato farmers in the Cartago area for the 1957-58
season.6 These data are used as the basis of discussion in this
Seed.-Almost without exception all farmers plant whole seed, 1
to 2 ounces in size. They seldom purchase new stock but select seed
potatoes year after year from their own production. Selection is
IRISH POTATOES: PRODUCTION AND MARKETING PROBLEMS 69
normally made at the time the potatoes are classified after harvest-
ing. Potatoes are planted in rows 30 inches apart, with the plants
spaced 8 inches between hills.
The average rate of seeding by farmers from whom records were
obtained was 2.7 cargas per manzana for the winter crop and 2.0
cargas for the summer crop. Yield per manzana for the two crops
was 13.1 and 9.7 cargas, respectively. The ratio of amount har-
vested to seed planted was 4.85 to 1 for each crop. This is only
one-half to one-third the ratio in North America.
Fertilizer.-Fertilizer was used on potatoes on all farms studied.
A number of analyses were used. The one used by the largest num-
ber of farmers was 8-30-6. Normally 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of
fertilizer were used per manzana. In addition to a complete ferti-
lizer, about 50 per cent of the farmers applied a small amount of
nitrogen to their crop in the form of foliar sprays.
Materials for Disease and Insect Control.-All farmers make
some effort to control plant diseases (mainly late blight, or man-
cha). Many do not attempt to control insects. All materials are
applied as spray, normally with a 5-gallon knapsack hand sprayer.
The kind and severity of diseases and insect infestations vary with
elevation, season of production, and variety. Usually the problem
of control is more difficult for the winter than for the summer crop.
All farmers from whom records were obtained who grew a winter
crop of potatoes used fungicides, but only 50 per cent used insecti-
cides. Various kinds and combinations of materials were used, such
as Ditano, Manzate, and Parzate. The winter crop received an aver-
age of about eight sprayings and the summer crop seven. Amount
of material applied was approximately eleven pounds per manzana
per spraying for the winter crop and nine pounds for the summer
LABOR USED IN PRODUCTION AND HARVESTING
Since most operations for potatoes are performed by hand, hours
of labor per manzana are high. Farmers who supplied data for the
1957-58 season estimated they used 673 hours of man labor per
manzana in producing the winter crop and 647 hours on the sum-
mer crop. These requirements were for farms on which oxen only
FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
were used for power and where spraying was done with a knapsack
The three operations requiring the most hours of labor were
spraying, digging potatoes, and classifying them into size groups.
For the winter crop, slightly over two-fifths of the man labor used
in production was spent in spraying; one-fourth of all labor for
production and harvesting was spent in spraying. Digging potatoes
required 153 hours of labor per manzana; and classifying, 98 hours,
or a little over 8 hours per carga. Labor requirements were less for
the summer than for the winter crop largely because control of dis-
eases was not so much of a problem and fewer hours were used in
spraying. Yield was also lower, so less time was required to classify
COSTS AND RETURNS PER MANZANA
The cost of producing a manzana of potatoes in the 1957-58
season, based on data collected, was C3,219 for the winter crop
and V2,669 for the summer crop. On both crops, seed accounted
for about one-third of the total costs; fertilizer, one-fifth, and spray
materials, 12 to 15 per cent. Although labor requirements were
high in terms of hours, value of labor was slightly less than one-fifth
of the total cost of production. Seed, fertilizer, spray materials, and
labor made up 84 per cent of the total cost per manzana of produc-
ing winter potatoes and 86 per cent for summer potatoes.
Production per manzana was 11.7 and 9.3 cargas for the winter
and summer crops, respectively. The winter crop was valued at
C338 per carga and the summer crop at V422. Therefore, the value
per manzana was about the same for the two crops--3,961 for
the winter crop and C3,928 for the summer crop. Net returns per
manzana, or difference between total value and total costs, were
C742 for the winter crop and C1,260 for the summer crop. This
was an average return of C63 and C135 per carga for the two
periods. Value placed on labor in calculating costs of production
was approximately C0.8 per hour. Returns to labor per manzana
were C1,307 for the winter crop and C1,761 for the summer
crop; or a return per hour of 01.94 and C2.72 for the two crops,
IRISH POTATOES: PRODUCTION AND MARKETING PROBLEMS
REDUCING COST OF PRODUCTION
Other than reduction of hours of labor used and, consequently,
of cost of labor, there appears to be little opportunity to reduce
total cost of producing potatoes. In fact, a higher level of produc-
tion practices should probably be used. Increasing the level of prac-
tices would increase total cost of production, but the corresponding
increase in output should be large enough to decrease per unit cost
and thus increase net returns. As indicated earlier, the ratio of
seeds planted to production is only 4.85 to 1 as compared to a
ratio of 10-15 to 1 in the United States.
Labor for growing potatoes could be reduced if farmers would
use simple machinery where possible. The two operations that offer
the greatest possibility for reducing man labor are spraying and
classifying the potatoes into size groups. Farmers who use knap-
sack sprayers equipped with motors estimated they reduced labor
for spraying by at least half. They also reduced the amount of
water required to spray a manzana since a spray of a higher con-
centration was normally applied. One farmer said that by using a
motor sprayer he reduced his cost of spraying 20 per cent. A major
problem in the use of a motor sprayer is the increased capital
needed. A 5-gallon hand sprayer costs about e250 and a motor
sprayer $900 to C980, or about four times as much.
Labor required for classifying potatoes could be reduced about
three-fourths by the use of a machine. There are a number of rea-
sons why such equipment is not used, the most important probably
being its cost and the fact that it is not available in Costa Rica.
On the other hand, potatoes produced are not uniform in shape and
are often affected by second growths, which would reduce the
efficiency of machine classification. There also appears to be a
prejudice on the part of both growers and buyers to machine
classification. Farmers also feel that it would be more difficult to
select seed potatoes if a machine was used. Seed potatoes are
normally selected at the time the potatoes are classified into size
MARKETING PRACTICES AND METHODS OF SELLING
Cartago is the main farmer's market for potatoes in Costa Rica.
FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
Many of the sales practices in use are based on tradition and have
been followed for generations. The wholesale market day is Sun-
day morning of each week. Buyers visit the market to buy potatoes
for sale in San Jos6 or other markets. Buyers at the Cartago market
usually assemble the potatoes from the producer and wash and pre-
pare them for market. They may sell the potatoes they purchase to
wholesale buyers in markets such as San Jos6, sell directly to hotels,
cafes, etc., or sell to a retailer who sells to consumers. Some buyers
operate their own wholesale and retail outlets.
A farmer desiring to sell at Cartago takes to the market a sample
of 3 to 5 potatoes of each size classification he wishes to offer. His
first step in marketing is to obtain as much information as possible
through informal conversations with other producers in regard to
varieties and prices of potatoes being offered for sale. This same
action is taken by buyers, but they also have a knowledge of prices
and the market situation in San Jos6 or other markets. The farmer
shows his sample of potatoes to various buyers until he obtains an
offer he is willing to accept. When a sale is made, the buyer agrees
to buy a stated number of cargas of a designated variety and size
classification. The seller is not paid for the potatoes the day the
sale is made but is usually paid the following Sunday. A buyer nor-
mally purchases only the amount of potatoes he needs for the
ASSEMBLING, WASHING, AND PREPARING FOR MARKET
Buyers wash and prepare the potatoes for market. Most buyers
have wash houses either in Cartago or in small settlements in the
potato-growing area. A few have their wash houses located in towns
where they sell potatoes, such as Alajeula, for example. When a
sale is made it is indicated when the buyer will take delivery of the
potatoes. In most cases the buyer accepts delivery at the farm, or
at a designated point if it is too difficult for a truck to be driven to
the seller's farm. The potatoes are packed in bags supplied by the
buyer, normally 225 pounds to a bag. The main sales days for
potatoes in San Jos6 are Tuesday and Friday. This means that
Monday and Thursday are the most important days for collecting
and washing potatoes.
IRISH POTATOES: PRODUCTION AND MARKETING PROBLEMS 73
Potatoes are washed by hand. About four bags of the same size
classification are poured in a trough about half full of water. The
potatoes are stirred back and forth with sticks with rounded pad-
dles on the end, and when clean they are placed in wire baskets.
Clean water is poured over the baskets to rinse off any loose dirt
or trash, and the potatoes remain in the baskets 15 to 30 minutes
to allow surplus water to drain off. They are then spread out to dry.
If the weather is fair, they may be placed in the sunshine on sacks
spread on the ground. In rainy weather, they are allowed to dry on
the floor in a building.
When the potatoes are dry they are picked up and placed in bags
ready for the market. Before they are bagged, recognizable dis-
eased and cull potatoes are removed. Potatoes of odd shapes and
sizes and those containing noticeable defects are also removed and
packed in separate bags to be sold at a lower price. Bags used in
marketing are the same size as those used to haul the potatoes from
the farm. They are packed to contain 225 pounds. The size classifi-
cation of each lot of potatoes is that made by the individual farmer
at time of harvest. Since classification is by hand, there is consider-
able variation in potatoes from different growers and also from the
same grower at different periods of the year.
The most important market for potatoes is San Jos6. The whole-
sale market operates mainly between 3 and 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and
Friday. The potatoes are hauled to the market on trucks which are
parked in the market, and sales are made directly from them. When
a sale is made, the bags of potatoes are carried to the purchaser's
place of business, usually on a worker's back or by hand carts.
Some of the buyers in Cartago have agreements to ship a given
amount of potatoes each week to merchants in distant towns, such
as Port Lim6n and Puntarenas. Potatoes to be shipped are not
washed because washing hastens spoilage.
COST OF ASSEMBLING AND PREPARING FOR MARKET
Buyers who buy potatoes from farmers at Cartago and prepare
them for sale perform certain services and also incur certain risks
in the marketing process. They have both direct and indirect costs.
Direct costs include hauling the potatoes from the farm to the
Examining for disease
Steep mountain side
Gently rolling fields
Preparation for sorting
FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
wash house, washing and preparing them for market, and hauling
them to the market. Indirect costs include grading out potatoes that
are not salable and placing potatoes in a lower grade. Fluctuations
in market prices also affect the costs.
Most buyers do not own trucks. They pay truckers to haul the
potatoes from the farm to the wash house and also to market. Cost
of hauling to the wash house varies with the distance and accessi-
bility of the farms. The charge may be as much as C15 or more
per carga but it averages about (10. Hauling potatoes from the
wash houses to San Jos6 averages about C8 per carga.
Cost of washing potatoes varies with the period of the year. It
requires from 5 to 10 hours of man labor to wash and grade a
carga of potatoes. Cost of washing varies from C7 to C10 per
carga. Some of the buyers employ labor for washing potatoes on a
regular basis, even though the volume handled varies considerably
from week to week.
The amount of diseased and culled potatoes removed at time of
washing depends on the season of the year and the condition of the
potatoes. The amount ranges from 50 to 200 pounds but averages
about 100 pounds per carga. In addition, about 50 pounds per
carga of potatoes of odd shapes and noticeable defects are packed
separately and sold at a lower price.
Under normal conditions, if a buyer paid C500 for a carga of
potatoes, those salable after washing and grading would bring him
about 0550. His expenses for hauling, washing, and preparing the
potatoes for market would average about C25, which would leave
him only about C25 per carga to cover other expenses, profit from
buying and selling the potatoes, and any losses that might be suf-
fered due to fluctuations in market prices.
MOVEMENT, VOLUME, AND PRICES
To obtain data on movement of potatoes and prices at various
levels, arrangements were made with four buyers at Cartago to
supply information on total cargas purchased each week of potatoes
of various varieties and classes, prices paid to growers, and amount
of loss in washing and preparing the potatoes for market. Arrange-
ments were also made with four retailers on the San Jos6 market
IRISH POTATOES: PRODUCTION AND MARKETING PROBLEMS
to supply weekly information on amount of potatoes purchased at
wholesale by variety and class, prices paid at wholesale, and retail
prices to consumers.
Collection of data from buyers on the Cartago market started
the week beginning December 28, 1958, and terminated after the
week ending April 18, 1959. Information was obtained from re-
tailers at San Jos6 for a period of 50 weeks-for the week begin-
ning November 3, 1958, to the week ending October 17, 1959.
These records form the basis for this discussion.
PATTERN OF MOVEMENT
As indicated earlier, some potatoes are harvested each month of
the year, but the main harvest is in September, October, and
November (first planting or winter crop). The second important
harvest period is in March, April, and May (second planting or
summer crop). Since potatoes are normally not held on the farm for
more than 60 days after harvest, the volume offered for sale varies
roughly with the amount harvested at different seasons.
Purchases of potatoes by the four retailers on the San Jos6
market were summarized by biweekly periods. Amount of pur-
chases increased slowly from the early part of November and
reached a peak about the last two weeks in December (Fig. 1). After
a decline, purchases were about the same in February and March.
They declined to a lower level in April, May, and June but did not
fluctuate much from period to period. July was the month when
volume handled was least. Amount of purchases began to increase
the latter part of August, due, no doubt, to the beginning of the
harvest of the winter crop.
Data on purchases from period to period by the four retailers
show something of the variation at different seasons of the year.
During the two-week period ending December 27, approximately
499 quintals of potatoes were purchased. This was 3.1 times the
162 quintals handled during the two weeks ending July 11. How-
ever, amount of purchases did not show a second peak during
March, April, and May-the period of harvest for the summer
crops. This appeared to be contrary to the opinion of local farmers,
buyers, and others associated with the potato industry.
FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
( LEGEND VARIETIES )
500 0 OTHERS
400 U ESTRELLA
S- N-N O -
N D J F M A N J J A S O
BIWEEKLY PERIOD ENDING
Fig. 1. Total Amount and Amount by Varieties of First Class Potatoes Pur-
chased, Selected Retailers, San Jose Market, Biweekly Periods, November 3, 1958,
to October 17, 1959
VOLUME HANDLED PER WEEK BY BUYERS AND SELLERS
Because of the way potatoes are handled in Costa Rica, volume
handled per week by buyers and sellers is small. During the 15
weeks for which data were obtained from the four buyers at Cartago,
they purchased 953 cargas of potatoes-an average of 63.5 cargas
per week, or 15.9 cargas per buyer. Amount of purchases, however,
ranged from a low of 8.6 cargas per buyer per week to a high of
The four retailers on the San Jos6 market handled an average of
about 35 quintals of potatoes per week. The one handling the
smallest volume averaged only about 14 quintals per week. This
compared to 56 quintals for the retailers handling the largest
Because of the wide fluctuation in amount of potatoes offered for
sale at different seasons of the year, there is also a wide variation
IRISH POTATOES: PRODUCTION AND MARKETING PROBLEMS
in amount of potatoes handled by the retailer. The retailer han-
dling the largest volume of potatoes purchased an average of 141
quintals per week during the two-week period ending January 10
but only 22 quintals per week during the two-week period ending
July 11. The one handling the smallest volume of potatoes varied
from a high of 22.5 quintals per week during the two-week period
ending January 10 to 8.5 quintals per week during the period
ending May 30.
Data on volume handled per week by buyers at Cartago and
retailers on the San Jos6 market indicate that one reason for the
many handlers of potatoes is the small volume per handler. Since
these people normally handle only potatoes, the data point up the
problems of obtaining an adequate income and the wide fluctuation
in income at different periods of the year.
WHOLESALE AND RETAIL PRICE
During the period November 3, 1958, to October 17, 1959, the
four retailers studied paid an average of e31.75 per quintal for
potatoes they purchased from wholesalers on the San Jos6 market.
The average price for the Estrella variety was (32.55 per quintal.
This amount was C5.15 per quintal less than the average price for
the Kennebec variety but C1.95 more than that for the Morada
Blanca variety and 02.45 more than for Morada Negra.
The most common unit of sale at retail is a measure called a
quartillo, which weighs seven pounds. During the period studied,
the average price at retail was C2.50 per quartillo. Retail price
varied by varieties averaging e3.05 per quartillo for Kennebec,
C2.55 for Estrella, C2.40 for Morada Blanca, and C2.35 for Morada
Both wholesale and retail prices fluctuated widely throughout the
year. Prices at both levels tended to increase from the early part of
November to the middle of March. They dropped from the middle
of March until the middle of May and then increased until about
the middle of June. The most rapid decline in prices was from the
last of June until the early part of September. The highest average
price at wholesale was C45.10 per quintal for all varieties for the
two-week period ending June 14. This compared to only 016.55
80 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
per quintal for the two-week period ending September 5, or a dif-
ference between the low and high price of 172 per cent.
Despite fluctuations in prices at different seasons of the year,
differences in prices between varieties were fairly constant from
period to period. This was true for both wholesale and retail prices.
Relative fluctuations in prices at wholesale and retail from period
to period were almost identical. That is, a change in the price paid
at wholesale by a retailer was reflected immediately in a similar
relative change in the price at retail to the consumer. This is con-
trary to the opinion that appears to be held by many people in
Costa Rica. In fact, some would argue that retail prices change very
little although there are wide fluctuations in prices at wholesale.
Relation between Supply and Price.-In the analysis of the data
obtained from retailers on the San Jose market, it was assumed that
the variation in the total amount of potatoes purchased by those
cooperating in the study represented variations in the total supply
of potatoes offered for sale on the market at different seasons of
the year. It was also assumed that the average of prices for the
four cooperators at wholesale and retail at different periods of the
year represented the average wholesale and retail prices for pota-
toes in the market.
A comparison was made of the fluctuation in amount of potatoes
purchased during each two-week period and the average price at
retail for all varieties (Fig. 2). These data did not show the usual
expected price-quantity relationship. During November, December,
and the first half of January price at retail increased although
there was a big increase in volume of potatoes sold. The retail
price dropped from the last of March to the middle of May and
then increased to the early part of July when there were only small
fluctuations in the volume of potatoes sold. Lowest retail prices oc-
curred in September and October although the amount of potatoes
sold during this period was only a little more than one-half the peak
volume in the last half of December and the first half of January.
Relation between amount of potatoes sold and retail prices would
tend to indicate that at different seasons of the year there were
factors causing a shift in demand, such as fluctuation in personal
income, increased competition from other products, or other factors.
IRISH POTATOES: PRODUCTION AND MARKETING PROBLEMS
160 --AMOUNT OF POTATOES PURCHASED
140 ,% -RETAIL PRICE
10 / / ALL VARIETIES
n0 0 o N 0
J J N ej-N -
N D J F M A M J J A S 0
BIWEEKLY PERIOD ENDING
Fig. 2. Indexes of Retail Price for All Varieties and Amount of Potatoes
Purchased at Wholesale, Selected Retailers, San Jos6 Market, Biweekly Periods,
November 3, 1958, to October 17, 1959
(November 3, 1958, to October 17, 1959 = 100)
Potatoes in Costa Rica are relatively high in price and many peo-
ple consider them somewhat of a luxury. Personal incomes of con-
sumers are probably highest towards the end of the year when the
coffee harvest is in progress, and during this period families no
doubt increase their purchases of food, including potatoes. Before
the coffee harvest starts, incomes of many families are at their
lowest levels. To sell potatoes the price must be relatively low.
Some dealers attributed the fluctuation in prices from March to
June partly to competition from avocados. Whatever the reason,
the data indicate that there appear to be factors other than a change
in supply that cause a change in the price of potatoes.
Gross Margin and Earning of Retailers.-Gross margin or spread
was obtained by subtracting the cost of the potatoes at wholesale
from the estimated gross retail value based on the price at retail.
During the 50 weeks that records were obtained, gross spread for
all varieties averaged 03.95 per quintal, or an average spread of
82 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
12.5 per cent above the wholesale price. Out of this amount, the
retailer had to cover losses due to unsalable potatoes or those sold
at a reduced price, direct expenses, and net earnings.
One significant fact about the amount of the gross margin was
the tendency for it to be a more or less fixed amount per quintal
from period to period. It did not tend to change with fluctuations
in the amount of potatoes sold or with variations in the price at
retail. This fact no doubt partly accounts for the feeling that the
middleman is the one that makes "all the profits." From a percent-
age standpoint, the markup is much more when prices are low than
when they are high. With the exception of 21/2 months from the last
half of November to the early part of January, the amount of pota-
toes sold from period to period varied much less than the price of
potatoes. This may partly explain why gross margin is more or less
constant, for the people selling potatoes are probably striving for
about the same gross income per week.
As indicated earlier, the retailer selling the least potatoes sold
about 14 quintals per week and the retailer selling the most about
56 quintals. Based on the average gross margin, the retailer with
low sales would have gross earnings of slightly over 50 per week
and the one with high sales about 0225. From this amount, rent,
taxes, hired labor, if any, and all other expenses must be sub-
tracted to obtain net earnings. Retailers generally keep their stands
open 68 hours per week. At a minimum wage of V1.25 per hour,
a worker would expect to earn C85 per week for this amount of
work, without furnishing any capital or incurring any expenses.
PROBLEMS OF PRODUCTION AND MARKETING
There are many difficult problems in the production and mar-
keting of potatoes in Costa Rica. Although some production is
harvested each month of the year, the bulk of the winter crop is
harvested in September, October, and November and of the sum-
mer crop in March, April, and May. Potatoes are not normally held
on the farm longer than about two months. As a result, there is a
wide fluctuation in the amount of potatoes offered for sale in differ-
ent months of the year. This, together with variations in income of
IRISH POTATOES: PRODUCTION AND MARKETING PROBLEMS
consumers, results in a wide variation in prices paid the farmer
and at the retail level.
With the exception of land preparation, most of the production
and harvesting operations are performed by hand. Hours of labor
per manzana are high. The topography of the land on which pota-
toes are grown varies from rolling to steep; this increases labor
requirements and also the difficulty of performing operations. Many
of the soils have been used for producing potatoes for years and
are infested with diseases, especially B. solanacearum at lower
elevations. Whole potatoes 1 to 2 ounces in size are used for seed.
Farmers normally select their planting seed year after year from
their own production. Much of the seed planted is infected with
viruses and other diseases. Research data on the most desirable
fertilization and other production practices are limited. Programs
followed to control plant disease and insects are usually not ade-
quate. Potatoes produced often are of low quality with many of
the tubers rough, odd-shaped, and affected with second growths.
Many of the potatoes harvested have to be culled because of
The marketing system is based largely on tradition. The small
amount handled by individual buyers and sellers increases the num-
ber of handlers between producers and consumers and also the
cost per unit for marketing the product. Wholesale and retail mar-
kets in towns such as San Jos6 are poorly organized and very con-
gested, which greatly reduces efficiency and adds to the cost of
handling products through them. Handlers operate on a more or
less fixed margin per unit. This makes it appear that their earn-
ings are excessively large, especially when prices are low. However,
gross earnings are only moderate and are in line with people per-
forming similar services. The amount of the margins tends to be
dictated more by the high cost and large losses inherent in the
present system of marketing rather than by the excessive profits
being made by the people performing the marketing services.
Efficiency of producing and marketing potatoes can be im-
proved. To obtain some of the desired improvements, however,
will involve changes in methods and the marketing system that are
impossible to obtain at the present time. The first step to reduce
84 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
cost in marketing and increase returns to growers is to increase
efficiency of production and to improve quality in order to make it
possible for producers to receive higher net returns and at the
same time provide the consumer with a better product at the same
or a lower price.
Some specific suggestions for developing a program to improve
the potato situation in Costa Rica follow:
1. Increase the amount of improved seed available to growers.
Many of the production problems and also low yields and quality
of potatoes produced at the present time stem from planting low
quality and often diseased seed. The Agronomy Department of the
MAI and the Consejo Nacional de Producci6n have a cooperative
program to obtain and distribute high-quality seed. These organi-
zations are to be complimented on the desirability of their objec-
tives. However, up to the present time, the program has provided
only a small quantity of improved seed. The fact that whole seed,
1 to 2 ounces in size, are planted makes the job harder. It is diffi-
cult to increase the supply of local seed of desired varieties since
only about enough small potatoes are produced on a manzana to
plant an additional manzana. Planting the large-size potatoes in-
creases the cost of the seed to more than the grower is able to pay.
Since the need for improved seed appears so basic in improving
the potato situation, the following suggestions appear desirable:
a. Review requirements of present program of seed production to see
if changes or improvements are needed or desirable.
b. Place the responsibility of developing and supervising the
program in the hands of one individual, with this job as his major
c. Initiate a program of research on the effects of size and spacing
of whole and cut seed on yields and returns.
2. Intensify program to educate producers to follow recom-
mended production practices. Producers are often slow to change
practices because of the uncertainty of the results. Demonstrations
are often an effective way to introduce a new practice. If a grower
sees the result of a practice in his own area he is more likely to try
IRISH POTATOES: PRODUCTION AND MARKETING PROBLEMS 85
it, especially if it can be shown that such a practice will increase
3. Encourage growers to plant seed free of brown rot (Maya)
in areas where this disease is a problem. Brown rot is a serious
problem in most of the potato areas below 2,200 meters. To reduce
losses in these areas, the seed planted should be free of brown rot.
Farmers should attempt to obtain their seed for each planting from
areas that are free of the disease.
4. Encourage increased use of simple equipment and also use
more effective equipment where possible. Physical factors make the
use of equipment difficult. At times farmers fail to make use of
equipment even when it is available and could be used to do an
effective job. To increase efficiency and reduce cost of production,
farmers should be taught and encouraged to use equipment where
conditions lend themselves to its use.
5. Experiment with the production of potatoes in new areas.
The population of Costa Rica is growing very rapidly. Increasing
the production of food to meet future demands will be difficult in
present production areas. Experiments should be conducted for
potatoes and other crops in areas where they can likely be grown
to determine the best areas in which to increase production.
6. Consider the possibility of establishing definite grade stand-
ards for potatoes. At present, there are no definite grade standards
for products grown in Costa Rica. This makes marketing more
difficult, for neither the buyer nor the seller has an improved stand-
ard by which to judge the product. Establishment of grade stand-
ards will be one necessary step if an effort is made to develop an
export market for potatoes.
Potatoes are grown in Costa Rica mainly on the southwest slope
of the Irazfi Mountain at elevations of 1,700 to 3,000 meters. A
small production is in the vicinity of Zarcero. Production was esti-
mated at 153,520 quintals in 1950 and 194,089 quintals in 1955.
Production of potatoes per capital is about 20 pounds per year.
Only about 14 pounds per capital are available for human consump-
tion since about 30 per cent of the annual production is used for
86 FERTILE LANDS OF FRIENDSHIP
seed, fed to livestock, or culled. About 3 to 4 per cent of the per
capital consumption is in the form of potato chips.
The topography of the land in which potatoes are grown varies
from slightly rolling to steep. Many of the soils are infested with
diseases. Much of the seed stock is infested with virus and other
diseases since year after year farmers normally plant seed selected
from their own production. Most of the production operations are
performed by hand. Programs for the control of insects and dis-
eases are inadequate. Potatoes produced often are of low quality
with many of the tubers rough, odd-shaped, and affected with
second growth. The ratio of the amount of seed planted to produc-
tion is about 4.85 to 1.
The marketing system is based largely on tradition. The volume
handled by individual buyers and sellers is small. Wholesale and
retail markets in the larger towns are poorly organized and very
congested, which reduces efficiency and adds to the cost of han-
dling products through them.
Potatoes are harvested each month of the year but the largest
harvest is in September, October, and November. Potatoes are nor-
mally not held on the farm longer than 60 days, so the volume
marketed fluctuates fairly closely with the volume harvested. The
peak period of sales is in the last half of December and the first
half of January. The volume of this period is about three times the
low volume that occurs in the first half of July.
The prices of potatoes at wholesale and retail follow about the
same pattern throughout the year. The difference in price between
varieties is also fairly constant. Prices normally increase from the
early part of November until the middle of March. They drop from
the middle of March to the middle of May and then increase until
about the middle of June. The most rapid decline in prices is from
the last of June until the early part of September. The supply of
potatoes is a factor in price. Shifts in demand during the year due
to variation in amount of income available to consumers and com-
petition from other products are also very important factors affect-
ing variation in prices of potatoes from period to period.
The gross spread between wholesale and retail prices is about
V3.95 per quintal. Spread is more or less constant throughout the
IRISH POTATOES: PRODUCTION AND MARKETING PROBLEMS 87
year. Out of this amount the retailer has to pay all expenses, cover
any losses due to unsalable potatoes, and receive his earnings. This
results in only a fairly modest income for most retailers since vol-
ume handled is not large. Earnings also fluctuate widely at differ-
ent periods of the year because of fluctuations in amount of potatoes
1. Ministerio de Economia y Hacienda, Principales Hechos Vitales Occurrtdos
en Costa Rica (San Jos6, 1958), p. 1.
2. Ministerio de Economia y Hacienda, Censo Agropecuario de 1950 (San Jose).
3. One carga equals 1,800 pounds.
4. Ministerio de Economia y Hacienda, Censo Agropecuario de 1955 (San
5. D. E. Alleger, "Agricultural Economic Assignment to Costa Rica," Univer-
sity of Florida Contract Termination Report (San Jose: STICA, Dec., 1957).
6. Mario C6rdoba, "Estudio de Costos de Producci6n, Labores y Materiales
Requeridos en el Cultivo de una Manzana de Papa," Suelo Tico, XI, 42 (April-
July, 1959), 5-28.
L. A. REUSS
Land Tenure and Type and Size of Farm
A agriculture is the basic industry in Costa Rica and
the principal occupation of the majority of the
workers. Continued urban growth in industry, trades, and services
depends greatly upon an efficient and healthy agriculture. To date,
only a few research studies have been made concerning the patterns
of activities of rural people, their resources, and the manner in
which these resources are organized and used.
In 1960 the MAI, through its Office of Planning and Coordina-
tion, initiated a study of two particular aspects of the situation,
namely: (1) the drift in land tenure in an old established farming
area in the Meseta Central, and (2) the associations between size
of farm, type of farm, and farm income in the same area for guid-
ance in possible programs in land settlement and colonization.
Atenas County was selected for the over-all study as representa-
tive of the rural communities of Costa Rica having characteristics
such as the following:
1. Irregular topography, conducive to a high grade of erosion, which
makes it difficult to mechanize farming.
2. Numerous small farms.
3. Reliance upon a number of different cash crops.
4. Heavy dependence upon hand labor and human power, with only
a limited number of oxen available for animal power.
5. Very high demographic growth.
6. Few opportunities for employment outside the farm.
7. Specific system of inheritance and division of land into parcels.
The prevailing type of agrarian structure is considered conducive
to the following:
1. Increase in the number of small landholdings.
2. Unequal distribution of property, a factor which tends to increase.
3. Limited opportunities for rural youth to begin an agricultural
career on an adequate operational scale.
4. A numerous class of workers with lower levels of living and in-
come than those families who own land.
LAND TENURE AND TYPE AND SIZE OF FARM 89
5. A tendency toward a constant decrease in the size of farms in-
herited from father to son.
6. Unsatisfactory distribution of agricultural income.
7. Increasing economic disadvantage due to mechanization of com-
It was expected that the study not only would produce possible
solutions to some of the problems of agriculture in Atenas, but
would also create sufficient incentive to support the continuation
of studies of a similar nature.
Atenas County, situated west of the Central Plateau and south-
west of the City of Alajuela, has an area of approximately 17,700
manzanas-the equivalent of 30,500 acres (1.727 acres per man-
According to the Statistical Census of 1955, the county con-
tained 782 farms with an area of approximately 16,334 manzanas.
The average size of farm was 21 manzanas. The principal crops
in terms of acreage were corn and beans, with small acreages in
coffee, rice, and sugar cane.
A good communication and transportation system exists between
the area and the centers of Alajuela, Grecia, and San Jos6. The dis-
tricts of Barrio Jesis and Concepci6n are served by the Pacific
Railroad. The other districts have roads for year-round traffic.
Atenas County has a population of approximately 12,000 in-
habitants, with a 51.8 per cent economically active population be-
tween the ages of 15 and 64.
The Mapa Preliminar de Suelos indicates two main groups of
Atenas County farm
land is rolling to
rugged KL -