Peru’s coca crop increased by some 5.2% in 2011, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)—marking the sixth consecutive year that cultivation increased in the Andean nation. Some 64,400 hectares of coca cultivation were detected in satellite images, compared to the estimated 61,200 hectares cultivated in 2010. While the Upper Huallaga Valley and Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE) continued to account for some 50% of Peru’s illegal coca crop, the area under cultivation in these zones increased by only 1%. However, cultivation was up by over 40% in northern Peru, with the provinces of Putumayo and Bajo Amazonas (both in Loreto region) especially named—areas newly opened to cultivation, where the government carries out no eradication campaigns. “Drug traffickers are becoming more efficient,” said Flavio Mirella, chief of UNODC’s Peruvian office, during a presentation of the report in Lima. “Traffickers need less coca leaf to produce more cocaine. Routes of supply are diversifying and producing areas are getting closer to certain routes of exit” toward Bolivia and Brazil, he said. (Bloomberg, UNODC press release, Sept. 27; BBC News, Sept. 26*)
Although Peru is rapidly catching up, Colombia remains South America’s top producer of coca leaf, a position it has held since 1997, despite dropping production since 2006. Mirella said that Colombia in 2011 produced 41.6% of the world’s coca, while Peru cultivated 40.7% and Bolivia 17.7%. (Colombia Reports, Sept. 26)
Peru has recently challenged claims by the US State Department that it is lagging in coca eradication efforts.
* Note that the figures in these reports do not quite match. We are going with those supplied by the UNODC press release.