INCB: Cocaine production increases in Peru; down in South America

The International Narcotics Control Board, in its annual report released on Wednesday,called on Peru’s government to enhance its programs to reduce the country’s growing illicit cultivation of coca and consequent drug supply.

The United Nations agency said in its 2009 report that the area used to cultivate coca leaf – the raw material used to make cocaine – decreased in South America by eight percent to 167,800 hectares in 2008 due to a major decline in Colombia, the world’s top producer of coca.

Colombian territory under coca bush cultivation in 2008 totalled 81,000 ha, an 18 percent drop from 2007. Cocaine production in Colombia was 430 tons in 2008, a decrease of 28 percent, or 170 tons. According to the INCB, the decline can be attributed to manual eradication efforts of high-yield coca crops. More than 96,000 ha were eradicated manually and 133,496 ha of coca were destroyed by aerial spraying in 2008.

However, coca bush cultivation in Peru has increased for the third consecutive year, and the country is the world’s second largest producer of coca leaf. In 2008, more than 56,000 hectares were used to grow coca. Between 1999 and 2008, Peruvian territory under illicit cultivation of coca leaf  increased by 45 percent.

Peru’s potential cocaine production also increased. Peru produced 302 tons of cocaine in 2008, which represented 36 percent of the global cocaine manufactured that year, the INCB said.

An active production area covers the valleys of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers, known as the VRAE, a broad area that includes 31 districts in the departments of Ayacucho, Junin, Huancavelica and Cusco. Ambushes and skirmishes between the police, military and drug traffickers and coca growers are constant, and the government and military lack a coherent development plan for the area. 

The increase in coca cultivation and the manufacture of cocaine in Peru can be explained, in part, by the balloon effect, or the drug fields’ tendency to shift elsewhere and sometimes to harder-to-reach plots in response to local eradication campaigns.

“The increasing illicit cultivation of coca bush in (Peru and Bolivia), is apparently a result of drug traffickers’ attempts to offset the decline in the total area under coca bush cultivation in Colombia,” the INCB reported.

A board member of the INCB, Camilo Uribe, said if Peru’s eradication policies do not improve, it will replace Colombia as the world’s primary producer of cocaine.  

“The Republic of Peru, without taking more aggressive measures for eradication and the control of coca bush cultivation, could be in five or 10 years the primary producer of cocaine in the Andean countries,” daily Gestión reported Uribe saying.

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