Traffickers Spend $140M Producing Strain
Colombian drug cartels have developed a new strain of coca plant that yields up to four times more cocaine, dealing a setback to a campaign against production of the drug that was beginning to show results.
The new plant was discovered by police during an operation in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
Experts pronounced it to be a new strain developed by drugs traffickers.
It is estimated that the traffickers spent $140 million Cdn in research to develop the new plant, crossbreeding strains from Peru with potent Colombian varieties, and using genetic engineering.
While traditional coca plants grow 1.5 metres tall, the new strain grows to more than three metres.
"What we found were not bushes, but trees," said Col. Diego Leon Caicedo of the anti-narcotics police.
Camilo Uribe, a toxicologist who studied the new plants, said: "The yield from this plant is much higher. It produces not only more drugs, but of a higher purity.''
The investment to unearth a new strain of coca, the raw material for cocaine, is small compared to the earnings.
Traffickers can produce a kilo of cocaine for less than $3,500.
This will sell in Miami for $33,000, in London for $80,000 and in Tokyo for $120,000 ( all funds in Canadian dollars ).
The widespread introduction of the new coca strain could undermine the efforts of President Alvaro Uribe to win the 40-year civil conflict.
By destroying the burgeoning drug crops, Uribe had hoped to weaken the warring factions, both Marxist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries, who earn more than $1.2 billion a year between them from the illicit drug trade.