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Colombia grew less coca in 2012, UN survey reports

Coca plant.
Coca plant.

Colombia grew less coca in 2012, UN survey reports

Coca cultivation in Colombia, one of the world's largest producers along with Bolivia and Peru, fell by a quarter in 2012, according to a new survey presented today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Government.

The area under cultivation in Colombia fell to 48,000 hectares (ha), down from 64,000 ha in 2011, UNODC said in a news release about the survey.

Of the country's 32 departments, coca bush cultivation affected 23. Of those, 17 had smaller cultivation. Nariño, Putumayo, Guaviare and Cauca saw the greatest declines and seven departments are now below the 100-hectare level.

Meanwhile, more coca was grown in Caquetá, Chocó and Norte de Santander. Satellite images and field surveys showed that some 80 per cent of cultivation was concentrated in eight departments, with roughly half taking place in three of those areas.

The Government manually eradicated almost 30,500 ha of coca bush in 2012 and sprayed nearly 100,550 ha of coca crops from the air, similar to 2011 levels.

The survey reported that these efforts curbed the area affected by coca cultivation in 2012 from 135,000 ha to 48,000 ha by the end of the year.

“The impact of the Government efforts to eradicate illicit coca crop is visible. However, the 2012 and previous surveys show that after eradication takes place, cultivation often resumes in new or previously cleared fields,” said Bo Mathiasen, UNODC Representative in Colombia.

He added that crop eradication, even when it yields positive results, must be complemented by alternative livelihood schemes to improve social, economic and environmental conditions and to achieve a sustainable reduction in the area under cultivation.

It is less lucrative to produce coca than in the past, the survey reported, even with a farmer grossing an average income of $1,220 per year. The farm-gate value of coca leaf and derivatives, such as coca paste and cocaine base, was estimated at $370 million in 2012, down from $422 million in the previous year and worth 0.2 per cent of national gross domestic product (GDP) and 3 per cent of the GDP related to the agricultural sector.

The number of households involved in coca cultivation fell 3 per cent from 62,400 in 2011 to 60,600 in 2012.

In 2005, 82 per cent of coca growers were dependent on the crop and its derivatives, compared to 60 per cent in this year's survey. The survey also reported that some 30 per cent of farmers are currently involved in the conversion of coca leaf into cocaine base – half the 2005 figure.