Sunday, June 21, 2009

Narcotics: Cocaine output slashed in Colombia,

Colombia witnessed a dramatic fall in coca cultivation and cocaine production in 2008, thanks in large part to the destruction of over 200,000 hectares of fields growing the illicit drug, according to a United Nations report.

However, the 2008 Andean coca survey – produced by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – pointed to a 6 per cent rise in coca cultivation in Bolivia and 4.5 per cent increase in Peru, with potential production increases for cocaine at 9 per cent and 4.1 per cent, respectively.

Cultivation of the crop in Colombia dropped by 18 per cent to 81,000 hectares, while production was down 28 per cent, from 600 metric tons in 2007 to 430 metric tons last year.

Much of the decline is due to the manual eradication of almost 100,000 hectares of coca – 44 per cent more land purged than in 2007 – in addition to over 130,000 hectares of coca that was sprayed, leaving the potential for cocaine production at its lowest in a decade, said the agency.

“This is a remarkable achievement,” said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. “It means that more coca bush was eradicated in Colombia than was grown in all of Bolivia and Peru.”

Noting that coca cultivation has decreased in Colombia since 2000 while on the rise in Bolivia and Peru, Mr. Costa warned that Peru “must guard against a return to the days when terrorists and insurgents, like the Shining Path, profited from drugs and crime.”

The report also noted that the market value of coca leaf in Colombia is falling, making it less attractive for farmers, and 20,000 fewer households grew coca in 2008 than in the previous year, a 26 per cent drop.

The head of UNODC called for much more development assistance “throughout the Andean countries, particularly in poor regions like the Yungas of Bolivia, where coca is the only source of income.”

Efforts to disrupt drug trafficking have contributed to the decline in Colombia, with some 200 tons of cocaine seized in 2008, a 57 per cent increase over 2007, and more than 3,200 labs were destroyed, an increase of 36 per cent.

“Cocaine supply is shrinking, as is demand in major markets of North America, while cocaine use in Western Europe has stopped growing,” said Mr. Costa. “This may explain why prices are up, and purity is down. This may also explain why cartels are becoming so violent.”

Source: UN News Centre
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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