Divergent coca crop cultivation trends in the Andean countries

22 June 2010 - UNODC coca crop surveys for Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Colombia and Peru issued today show a drop of 5 per cent in the amount of coca bush being grown in the Andean countries - the world's main source of cocaine's raw material - from 167,000 ha in 2008 to 158,000 ha in 2009.

In Colombia, cultivation fell by 16 per cent to 68,000 ha, a decline of almost 60 per cent since the peak of a decade ago. "The drug control policy adopted by the Colombian Government over the past few years - combining security and development - is paying off," said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. Cocaine production in Colombia fell to 410 metric tons, a 9 per cent year-on-year reduction.

Cultivating coca bush in Colombia has clearly become riskier and less profitable for organized crime. Coca farmers barely earn over US$ 1 a day. The total farmgate value of coca production has dropped by 21 per cent, to below half a billion dollars (US$ 494 million), equivalent to 0.2 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. Coca plots are becoming smaller, more dispersed and less productive, thus increasing the demand of local communities for legal, sustainable livelihood initiatives.

However, the news from Peru is worrisome. Coca bush cultivation in Peru continues to rise (for the fourth year in a row), up 6.8 per cent to 59,900 hectares (compared to 56,100 ha in 2008). Indeed, 55 per cent more coca bush is now grown in Peru than a decade ago, although this year's total is still half of what it was two decades ago.

"If the current trend continues, Peru will soon overtake Colombia as the world's biggest coca producer - a notorious status that it has not had since the mid-1990s," warned Mr. Costa. "I invite the Peruvian Government to take concerted action on all fronts to improve the delivery of public health and security by expanding sustainable livelihood initiatives, drug prevention and treatment programmes, law enforcement and regional cooperation," said the head of UNODC.

There was little change in coca bush cultivation in the Plurinational State of Bolivia: an increase of 1 per cent to 30,900 ha. Nevertheless, this is twice the amount of a decade ago. "More eradication and greater support for development, not least for alternative livelihoods, are needed in the Yungas and Chapare regions," said the head of UNODC. "Urgent action is also required to repair the environmental damage caused to regions that have been severely affected by mono-cultivation of coca crops."

Market forces seem to be making coca less profitable. In 2009, coca farmers in the Plurinational State of Bolivia earned 10 per cent less for the coca leaf (US$ 265 million in 2009, down from US$ 293 million in 2008).

"There are limits to what the Andean Governments can do if people keep snorting cocaine. It is therefore up to Governments in coke consuming countries - mostly in Europe and North America - to take their share of responsibility and reduce demand for cocaine," said Mr. Costa.

Due to the ongoing review of conversion factors from coca leaves to pure cocaine - by  improving the precision of estimates based on alkaloid content of coca leaves and laboratory efficiency as well as cultivation and yield - UNODC is not putting a point estimate on the level of cocaine production in Bolivia (Plurinational State of) and Peru this year. Because of this uncertainty, global cocaine production in 2009 was estimated as a range (842-1,111 metric tons).

These coca surveys refer only to cultivation. The UNODC World Drug Report 2010, to be issued on 23 June, gives a complete picture of the cocaine market, including with regard to demand, supply and trafficking.

Related information

UNODC and illicit crop monitoring

Colombia - Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca 2009 (pdf)

Perú - Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca 2009 (pdf)

Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia - Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca 2009 (pdf)