Colombia has the largest area of coca crops in the world, with 143,000 hectares cultivated forthe main raw material for cocaine production. Of the 20 Colombian states where illicit crops have been identified, Norte de Santander, bordering Venezuela, has the largest cultivated area, about 40,000 hectares.
These figures appear in the Survey of Territories Affected by Illicit Crops, a document published annually by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Colombia, as part of the Integrated Illicit Crops Monitoring System (SIMCI, in Spanish) project. The data reflects the reality observed in 2020 and was released in July 2021.
The study indicates that in the last five years there has been a strong trend of coca crop concentration, especially in border areas and strategic areas for cocaine trafficking. According to the report, when this concentration stabilizes for four years or more, a productive enclave is established. There are currently nine enclaves in Colombia which occupy 16 percent of the territory with coca plantations and produce 40.5 percent of the country’s coca
More cocaine in smaller areas
Data from the UNODC-SIMCI report shows a 7 percent reduction in the area occupied by coca in Colombia: 154,000 hectares in 2019 compared to 143,000 in 2020. From one year to the next, only four states of the 20 affected by the so-called narco-crops had a significant increase in cultivated areas.
However, while the size of planted areas decreased, cocaine production per hectare increased. This trend has been observed since 2016. From 2019 to 2020, there was an 8 percent increase in the drug’s production potential in Colombia
The study concluded that “cocaine hydrochloride production laboratories are getting bigger and have greater efficiency in conversion, the use of chemicals, processing time, and hiring staff.”
The report estimates that production of coca leaf generates about $450 million for drug trafficking, but the raw material converted into cocaine and exported increases this value to about $1.8 billion.
The government’s strategy to reduce by half the coca-growing territory by 2023 has run into the insurgency of different illegal armed groups that are working to dominate regions previously controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which signed a peace agreement with Colombia in 2016.
Data from the Ministry of National Defense mentioned in the UNODC study show that there has been a 35 percent jump in the number of crimes against public safety in the last four years across Colombia.