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Colombia's Coca Cultivation Falls

  • Reuters

A farmer shows coca leaves collected in her garden, (File photo).

A farmer shows coca leaves collected in her garden, (File photo).

Coca cultivation in Colombia, the world's biggest cocaine producer, fell by a quarter in 2012 as the state cracked down on the crop and farmers diversified away from it, data showed on Thursday.

The area under coca cultivation shrank to 48,000 hectares at year's end from 64,000 a year earlier although farmers may have planted as much as 135,000 hectares during the year in a cat-and-mouse game with police, according to an annual survey.

Authorities eradicated by hand nearly 30,500 hectares of coca bushes and sprayed over three times more from the air, similar to 2011 levels, the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Bogota government showed.

It estimated the farm-gate value of coca leaf and derivatives such as coca paste and cocaine base at $370 million in 2012 - down from $422 million the year before - worth 0.2 percent of national economic output.

While prices were mostly stable for cocaine base and paste, the coca leaf yield per hectare fell and the number of households linked to coca growing fell 3 percent to 60,600.

“With the average gross income of a farmer selling coca leaf estimated at $1,220 per year, coca production does not fetch the same lucrative rewards as in the past,” the report said.

It put 2012 production of pure cocaine at around 309 tons, in line with the 2011 figure, while cocaine seizures rose by a fifth to around 188 tons.

Bo Mathiasen, UNODC representative in Colombia, said government efforts to eradicate the illicit coca crop were having a visible impact but that farmers often simply replant bushes in new or previously cleared fields.

Peru, Colombia and Bolivia are the world's biggest coca producers. Official data earlier this week showed Bolivia's cultivation fell for the second consecutive year in 2012.
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