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Cocaine production shifts
7/1/2009
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Production of the drug increases in Bolivia and Peru, falling in Colombia, UN report says.

Production of cocaine in Colombia, the world´s largest producer, fell by more than a quarter in 2008, but Peru and Bolivia, the No. 2 and No. 3 producers of the drug, increased their production, a new United Nations report showed.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime´s (UNODC) 2009 World Drug Report, released June 24, hints at what some experts call a “balloon effect,” meaning that eradication efforts in one area, Colombia in this case, will lead to production growth in others.

The report found that Colombia´s cocaine production dropped 28 percent, from 600 metric tons in 2007 to 430 metric tons last year. Its cultivation of coca, the raw material in cocaine, dropped by 18 percent, to 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) last year.

The UNODC owed the sharp drop in cocaine production to Colombia´s eradication of more than 96,000 hectares (237,000 acres) and the spraying of more than 133,000 (328,500 acres).

“This is a remarkable achievement," said Antonio Maria Costa, the UNODC´s executive director. “It means that more coca bush was eradicated in Colombia than was grown in all of Bolivia and Peru.”

But cocaine and coca production both increased in Peru and Bolivia last year, the UN found.

Bolivia´s cocaine production surged 9 percent last year to 113 metric tons as its coca output increased 6 percent to 30,500 hectares (75,000 acres). In Peru, cocaine production in 2008 totaled 302 metric tons, up 4 percent, and coca production increased 4.5 percent to just over 56,000 hectares (138,000 acres), the report said.

Rómulo Pizarro, chief of Peru´s anti-drug agency, Devida, said that increased demand for cocaine in the United States and Europe has driven up coca production in both Peru and Bolivia.

But the UNODC´s Costa says that demand has fallen in the United States and has leveled off in Europe.

For Peruvian rural development and drug expert Hugo Cabieses, the “balloon effect” is confirmed because the three countries´ combined cocaine production of around 900-1,200 metric tons a year has remained stable.

According to the UNODC report, the three countries´ combined production last year totaled 167,000 hectares (412,000 hectares) and cocaine production was 845 metric tons.

Cabieses notes that more cocaine can be made from fewer coca leaves now, with a rate of 5 kilograms (11 lbs.) of cocaine per hectare.
—Latinamerica Press.


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