Peru has set its target for eradicating coca bushes next year at 26,000 hectares, an increase of around 10 percent over this year and a major jump from earlier strategies.
The announcement was made by Interior Minister Walter Alban, according to state news agency Andina, just days after the government announced this year’s success.
Last week, Alban and the chief of Peru’s anti-drug agency, Carmen Masias, said the country eradicated a record 22,300 hectares so far this year. Alban also said they hope to eradicate a total of 24,000 hectares by the end of this December.
That is an important jump from the record of 14,000 hectares eradicated last year, and the goal of 10,000 hectares in previous administrations.
The government has hailed the eradication efforts as a good step forward in tackling cocaine production in Peru. With the exception of a few tons for industrial and traditional uses, the majority of coca leaves are used to make cocaine.
Peru has recently overtaken Colombia as the world’s top cocaine producer, according to the United Nations.
In addition to coca eradication, the government’s anti-drug policy also involves alternative development for coca growers, seizure of precursor chemicals and drug shipments and a bigger state presence in cocaine-producing regions through military and police as well as infrastructure works.
Some analysts have questioned whether the increased eradication will help lower cocaine production, pointing to improved technologies by drug traffickers to extract more cocaine from fewer coca leaves.