Coca producing States need aid for crop substitution to fight illegal drugs – UN

Coca producing States need aid for crop substitution to fight illegal drugs – UN

Antonio M. Costa
Although coca cultivation in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru was stable last year, the three Andean nations need significant international aid for crop substitution if recent gains made in eradicating the source of cocaine, one of the most widely used illegal drugs, are to be maintained, the United Nations drug agency said today.

“The drug control balance in the Andean region is fragile,” UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa told a news conference in Bogota, the Colombian capital, where he presented his Agency’s 2005 Andean Coca Survey.

“Governments are trying to hold the line on the significant reductions that have been made in the past five years and overall figures remain nearly a third below their peak of 2000. But they need substantial international assistance so they can provide poor coca farmers with sustainable alternative livelihoods.”

The Survey shows that coca cultivation in the region, which accounts for the entire global output of cocaine, rose 1 per cent to 159,600 hectares from 2004. This reflected an 8 per cent increase in Colombia, while cultivation in Bolivia and Peru fell by 8 per cent and 4 per cent respectively. Global cocaine production fell 3 percent to 910 metric tons in 2005.

Assistance already being provided to wean farmers off coca was proving effective, but the scale was much too small. “Our aid efforts need to be multiplied at least tenfold in order to reach all impoverished farmers who need support,” Mr. Costa said. “This is a major undertaking, but it could reduce poverty and the world supply of cocaine at the same time.”

Colombia remained the world’s largest coca grower in 2005, accounting for 54 per cent of total cultivation. Peru was second with 30 per cent and Bolivia third with 16 per cent.

New research by UNODC and the Colombian Government indicates that coca crops have been producing a substantially higher yield than was previously realized, possibly explaining why the price and purity of cocaine have remained steady despite the overall reduction in world supply and a dramatic increase in cocaine seizures, Mr. Costa said.

Global seizures rose 18 per cent to 588 metric tons in 2004, the highest ever recorded. For the third year in a row, Colombia topped the rankings for seizures. Mr. Costa said the record seizures showed improved cooperation in international law enforcement.

He also expressed concern about growing demand for cocaine in Europe. “This is a trend that Europe ignores at its peril. The West needs to curb its appetite for cocaine or be prepared for increased health, social, and crime problems,” he said.