Colombia: “shock” rise in coca production

Colombia’s coca crop grew by 27% last year, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported June 18, calling the increase “a surprise and a shock” given ongoing US-funded eradication efforts. Coca cultivation was also up 4% in Peru and 5% in Bolivia, the annual survey found.

The UN estimated cocaine production in the Andean region was stable, at about 994 metric tons compared to 984 metric tons in 2006. Cocaine production failed to keep pace with coca cultivation because crops were more widely dispersed in smaller and remote plots in response to eradication campaigns.

“The increase in coca cultivation in Colombia is a surprise and shock: a surprise because it comes at a time when the Colombian government is trying so hard to eradicate coca; a shock because of the magnitude of cultivation,” UNODC executive director Antonio Maria Costa said in a statement.

However, he noted that almost half of Colombia’s coca comes from just 10 of the country’s 195 municipalities. “Just like in Afghanistan, where most opium is grown in provinces with a heavy Taliban presence, in Colombia most coca is grown in areas controlled by insurgents.”

The study found 99,000 hectares, or 382 square miles, of coca cultivation in Colombia last year, up from 78,000 hectares in 2006. It estimated total cultivation last year in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia at 181,600 hectares, or 701 square miles. Last year, Colombian police sprayed herbicide on 160,000 hectares of coca and manually eradicated another 50,000. (AP, June 18)

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