Bolivia Admits Some Coca Goes to Illegal Drug Trade

By Dialogo
October 19, 2010

President Evo Morales on 17 October urged farmers growing coca — the
source plant for cocaine — to respect production limits because the excess
crop was being funnelled to the illegal drug trade.

Morales, 50, is a former head of the powerful coca farmer’s union in
the Chapare region, the heart of Bolivia’s coca growing region.

“Part of our coca goes to the illegal market” for the production
of cocaine, Morales told a meeting of some 1,000 delegates of various regional coca
growing unions.

Coca has been grown legally for centuries in the Andean nations, where locals
use it for medicinal purposes. Chewing coca produces a mild narcotic effect that
helps combat altitude sickness in the high mountain range.

Coca growers have been pressing their union leaders to demand higher official
production quotas.

“If the whole production went to the legal market, there would be no
problem, but some of it is being diverted,” Morales said.

Bolivia legally allows 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of coca bushes to be
planted, but currently more than double that amount — some 30,500 hectares
(75,400 acres) — are under cultivation, according to figures from the
Organization of American States (OAS).

Forty-five percent of the world’s coca leaf production comes from
neighboring Peru, according to a June report by the United Nations Office on Drugs
and Crime (UNODC).

Nearly 40 percent is grown in Colombia, and 15 percent is grown in Bolivia,
according to the report.

Colombia remains the largest source for processed cocaine, and United States
and Europe are the main cocaine-consuming markets, according to the UN