Peru Will Be No. 1 Coca Producer By 2011, Experts Say

By Dialogo
August 18, 2009

Peru could displace Colombia in 2011 as the world's biggest producer of coca, the raw material of cocaine, according to experts quoted by La Republica newspaper. In "2011 or 2012 Peru very probably should come to be the No. 1 producer of cocaine in the world, as occurred in the 1980s," analyst Jaime Garcia Diaz told the paper. In that decade, the amount of territory in Peru on which coca leaf was being grown was about 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres). In 2005, about 48,200 hectares were used to grow coca and in 2008 56,100 hectares, and at present the country is the world's second largest producer of coca, according to the United Nations. If the rising trend of the past few years is maintained, with coca production increasing by about 4 or 5 percent annually, coca leaf cropland in Peru will total 75,000 hectares in 2011, despite the government's efforts to eradicate about 10,000 hectares of the illegal crop each year. In contrast, in Colombia, the land area on which coca leaf was being grown, by 2008, had fallen by 18 percent to about 80,953 hectares, according to U.N. figures cited by La Republica. Garcia Diaz and drug trafficking expert Jaime Antezana, both of whom are with ConsultAndes, agree that the aggressive campaign to eradicate coca plots being pursued in Colombia could cause drug traffickers to shift their production to Peru. This situation "would cause the coca land area in our country to grow by about 10 percent," said Garcia Diaz, emphasizing that the government's efforts to eradicate the coca leaf cropland are insufficient. The areas of greatest coca leaf and cocaine production in Peru are the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers and the Huallaga Valley, where drug traffickers linked with the so-called "remnants" of the Shining Path guerrilla group operate. Peru, like neighboring Bolivia, allows cultivation of coca in small quantities for use in teas, folk remedies and Andean religious rites. Since time immemorial, Andean peasants have chewed coca - a mild stiumulant in its unadulterated form - to ward off hunger pangs and cope with the affects of altitude sickness.