By the 19th century, at the height of the colonial era, quinine had become a highly sought-after product. The major European powers had tried unsuccessfully to control the production of the raw material used in the manufacture of antimalarial drugs.
Knowing this, the bankrupt adventurer Charles Ledger saw quinine as a potential business opportunity. He had spent several years travelling around South America on an audacious mission: buying alpacas with a view to introducing them into Australia. He later remembered a magnificent cinchona forest he had seen in Bolivia.
He sent his assistant, Manuel Incra Mamani, back to Bolivia in search of the memorable place. After five years, Mamani finally returned with the seeds of this extraordinary species. Ledger first tried to interest the British government in his discovery. When this was unsuccessful, he finally managed to offload the seeds by selling them to a Dutch official for a song.
The Dutch began planting the seeds in Indonesia. Their plantation soon became highly productive, yielding the highest-quality product available anywhere and enabling the Dutch to corner the quinine market.
source: Irwin W. Sherman. Drugs That Changed the World: How Therapeutic Agents Shaped Our Lives. CRC PRESS.