Colombia’s cocaine output fell to less than half the world’s total last year, as Peru overtook the country in cultivation of the drug’s base ingredient for the first time in more than a decade.
Colombia last year produced 37 percent to 49 percent of the estimated 842-to-1,111 metric tons of the world’s cocaine, down from 51 percent in 2008, according to the 2010 World Drug Report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Colombian output fell to 410 tons, from 450 tons in 2008, Leonardo Correa, the project coordinator of the UN agency’s Illicit Crop Monitoring Program in Colombia, said at a news conference in Bogota to present the report.
Peru overtook Colombia in potential production of coca, the base ingredient of the drug, harvesting 119,000 tons of the leaf compared with 103,100 tons for Colombia, according to the report.
The last year Peru produced more coca than Colombia was in 1997, when Colombia’s total of world cocaine output stood at 40 percent. Coca yields in Peru were higher than Colombia last year because the drug crops there did not face as much pressure from eradication efforts, Correa said.
Land dedicated to production of coca in Colombia fell to 68,000 hectares (167,960 acres) last year, an 11-year low, according to the study based on satellite monitoring. Coca cultivation rose to 59,900 hectares in Peru from 56,100 a year ago and to 30,900 in Bolivia from 30,500 in 2009.
Colombian coca production has fallen due to U.S.-backed aerial spraying of coca fields with pesticides, and a program of “manual eradication” whereby workers dig up coca bushes by hand. Colombia receives more than $600 million annually in U.S. anti-narcotics aid, more than any country outside the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Estimates for cocaine output in Peru and Bolivia are not yet available, Correa said.
A kilogram of cocaine cost $2,147 in Colombia last year compared with a wholesale price of $34,700 in the U.S. and street price of $120,000, Correa said.
In Guaviare province in southern Colombia, the spraying and eradication have caused an “economic crisis” said Giovanny Gomez, a lawmaker for the Green Party in the state’s assembly.
The provincial capital, San Jose del Guaviare, is struggling to cope with an increase in unemployment, informal employment and squatter invasions as farmers affected by the spraying move to the town, Gomez said.
We welcome the help of the U.S., we welcome international help, but this money needs to be used for crop substitution, not fumigation, Gomez said.
President-elect Juan Manuel Santos has pledged to continue the government’s eradication programs, saying that the cocaine trade is financing the country’s Marxist guerrillas.
By Matthew Bristow
June 22, 2010
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