Premier Cesar Villanueva said Monday that the growing demand for Peruvian cacao could help boost development in remote, jungle regions where drug trafficking and illegal mining currently play a major role.
Peru has been looking to the development of cacao and other crops as a strategy to convince farmers to stop growing coca, the raw material for cocaine. Peru is the world’s biggest cocaine producer.
Villanueva said in comments reported by RPP Noticias , during the launching of an annual “Golden Cacao” promotional program, that cacao and other crops could help regions “defeat drug trafficking and illegal mining with development.”
“What we have to do is not only produce to export, but also transform and consume,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva added that there is “political will” from the government to support cacao producers.
Villanueva was appointed to lead President Ollanta Humala’s cabinet in late 2013. At the time, he was the president of the country’s San Martin region.
San Martin is seen as a model for reducing drug production with alternative development. It was a major drug producing region in the 1980s and 1990s, but output of coca leaves has declined in the wake of police and military interdiction programs and producers have moved to other parts of Peru.
The San Martin “miracle,” as it has been called, involved eradication of coca crops, increasing security in the area, and promoting sustainable economic development.
Exports of Peruvian cacao have increased in recent years and the private sector said Monday that it expects shipments to continue to climb in 2014. In 2013, cacao exports totaled $130 million, up 20 percent from 2012, according to export association Adex.
Peru is the world’s second producer of fine cacao.
Adex said that it expects cacao exports to total about $150 million this year, which would be about a 15 percent increase from 2013.
The Ministry of Agriculture’s 2014 Golden Cacao program is being carried out until September this year, together with the private sector, to foster and train small producers in the regions of Amazonas, Ayacucho, Cajamarca, Cusco, Huanuco, Junin, Loreto, Madre de Dios, Pasco, Piura, Puno, San Martin, Tumbes and Ucayali. Recognition and classification of the best cacao pods and beans will be awarded on October 1st, Cacao and Chocolate Day.
The program’s committee includes specialists from the Cacao Producers Association, the Peru Cacao Alliance, the government’s drug policy institution DEVIDA, and Ministry of Agriculture officers, and headed by the National Agricultural Innovation Institute, INIA.