Defense minister says alternative crop promotion better than eradication to deter coca

Peruvian Defense Minister Jaime Thorne said Friday the promotion of alternative crops to coca, the raw material used to make cocaine, is more important to combating the country’s growing drug trade than eradication efforts.

“I believe an aspect in the fight against drug trafficking that is much more important than eradication is to provide the opportunity to those that are farming to have alternative crops,” state news agency Andina reported Thorne as saying.

Thorne said it is crucial to work with farmers to “convince them that it is much more profitable to work legally.”

Thorne’s comments follow the publication of the UN World Drug Report 2011 on Thursday that showed an increase in Peruvian land used to cultivate coca leaves for the fifth consecutive year.

Over a period of at least 30 years, Peru and the financial/military backing of the U.S. have at different times led interdiction operations that have included crop-dusting with chemicals to kill the hardy coca bushes, flight interdictions to shoot down illegal aircraft carrying the drugs out of Peru, and the still continuing raids on coca processing operations.   Despite these efforts and millions of dollars, the number of hectares under cultivation has expanded, drug processing in many cases has moved to other areas, cocaine is being shipped in increasingly imaginative ways out of the country, and drug-related violence is on the rise. 

Crop substitution has in some areas been successful –organic coffee and cacao crops are just two examples– but the effort requires longer-term support and a strong backing in market openings.

According to the UN report, Peru saw a 2% increase in the area under coca cultivation last year to 61,200 hectares from 59,900ha in 2009.

The increase was recorded in the Apurimac and Ene river valleys (VRAE). The VRAE, which includes 31 districts in the departments of Ayacucho, Cuzco, Huancavelica and Junin, is now the country’s top coca growing region with 19,700ha under cultivation.

The next main region is the Upper Huallaga valley in Huanuco region. In 2010, however, this region saw a 4,500ha decrease in area for coca cultivation due to eradication and crop substitution efforts.

Colombia is also a top coca growing region. However unlike Peru, Colombia has seen a steady decrease in cultivation during the past decade. In 2000, Colombia land under coca totaled 163,300ha and last year it was at 57,000ha, a 65 percent decrease.

This decrease has come with increased eradication. In 2010, 43,792ha were eradicated manually and 101,939ha were eradicated by spraying. This is in deep contrast to Peru, where manual eradication has only taken out 12,253ha of coca.

The decrease in Colombia has resulted in a global decline of coca cultivation by 6% year-on-year to 149,100ha in 2010.

Bolivia is also a top producer of coca.

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One Comment

  1. rick bourne says:

    grow them both together put them on the cart together then send them to the market together that is the crops with the cocaine okay with you.

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