Peru is expected to become the world’s undisputed leader in cocaine production this year, as the United Nations confirms that output from neighboring Colombia has fallen sharply.
During most of the past decade Peru was the second biggest producer of coca, the raw material used to make cocaine, behind Colombia. However, output has been expanding steadily in Peru, while declining in Colombia.
In 2011, Peru and Colombia were virtually tied as the world’s biggest producers. However, that is sure to change in 2012, as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that the amount of Colombian territory used to produce coca declined 25 percent to 48,000 hectares from 64,000 hectares the previous year.
“The impact of the government efforts to eradicate illicit coca crop is visible,” said the UNODC’s representative in Colombia, Bo Mathiasen. The UN said that it is less lucrative for Colombian farmers to plant coca than in previous years, while the government has manually eradicated thousands of hectares of crops and sprayed thousands more.
While the UN still has not released Peru’s annual coca production in 2012, there is little doubt that it will be higher than Colombia’s.
The likelihood that Peru is a top coca producer would not be that surprising. The United States has already labeled the country as the world’s largest producer. But it would be the first time that the UN data confirms Peru’s position at the top.
Even if Peru meets its goal for eradicating coca crops this year, it will still be lower than Colombia’s. Indeed, President Ollanta Humala’s administration would likely be happy with just a slight decline in coca output, showing that it has been able to reverse the trend of growing production. Humala’s government has recently stepped up its eradication program, with financial and logistics support from the U.S., in an attempt to stem the expansion of illegal coca crops during President Alan Garcia’s administration, when eradication goals of 10,000 hectares per year were being met but the expansion was faster.
The UN will release its report on Peru’s 2012 coca production in September.
The world’s other major coca producer, Bolivia, also saw its output fall last year.