BOGOTA, 14 June 2007 (UNODC) - Coca cultivation in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia fell two percent in 2006 but the three Andean nations need more development assistance if progress in containing the drugs problem is to be maintained, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on Wednesday.
UNODC'S Coca Cultivation in the Andean Region survey showed that the area under coca cultivation in the world's main cocaine-producing region slipped to 156,900 hectares in 2006 from 159,600 in 2005. A nine percent fall in Colombia, the world's largest cocaine grower, offset increases in Bolivia and Peru.
Global cocaine production was virtually unchanged at 984 tonnes.
"The overall situation is stable, yet fragile," said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. "Recent evidence suggests that coca cultivation in the Andes can be , and is being , contained."
"To consolidate this progress, it will take a concerted effort at every stage of the drug trade: more effective prevention and treatment to reduce demand; greater technical assistance and regional co-operation to stop trafficking; and comprehensive national drug control plans, including law enforcement and social and economic development, in order to reduce supply."
In the Andean region as a whole, the long-term solution does not lie solely with tougher law enforcement and vigorous eradication measures. The real test is to tackle the root causes of drug supply and demand.
"All Andean countries require greater support for development assistance that can generate growth and create brighter prospects for communities at the beginning of the supply chain," Mr Costa said. He also encouraged Andean countries to work together to exchange intelligence on drug trafficking and carry out joint operations.
Global demand for cocaine remains steady, with a decline in the United States counter-balanced by a rise in Europe.
West Africa is increasingly being used as a transit region for cocaine. "This is an alarming development which, if left unchecked, could undermine the stability of entire African countries. We cannot afford to let new narco-states emerge in this part of the world," Mr Costa said.
In Colombia, the area of land under coca cultivation was the lowest in 10 years as the government destroyed record amounts of coca.
Coca spraying increased by 24% to cover 172,000 hectares, while manual eradication jumped by one third to almost 42,000 hectares. Significant law enforcement successes were achieved, with 177 tonnes of cocaine seized and more than 2,200 clandestine laboratories destroyed in Colombia.
"Nevertheless, Colombia remains the world's biggest coca grower and is responsible for 62% of the world's supply of cocaine," the UNODC chief said.
"Eradication is having an effect, but deeper and more sustainable cuts will depend on providing further incentives to encourage farmers to voluntarily give up their crops."
In Peru, although the area of land under coca production rose seven percent to 51,400 hectares, the government's national drug control strategy appeared to be working.
"In addition to eradication, new tactics are being employed to control the inflow of precursor chemicals, promote the sustainable development of coca growing valleys, prevent drug abuse, and seize assets acquired through the profits of drug trafficking," Mr Costa said.
But these tactics were not being evenly applied throughout the country, with the result that some communities remained vulnerable to the temptation of growing coca.
In Bolivia, coca cultivation rose eight percent to 27,500 hectares, due to increases in the main cultivation regions, Yungas of La Paz and Chapare.
Mr Costa called for sustained drug law enforcement by the Bolivian Government.
"The Government needs to reassure the world that its support for coca growers will not lead to an increase in cocaine production," he said.
"It can be assisted in this task by greater investment in projects that will benefit poor agricultural regions, and greater support for regional counter-narcotics security that will cut the import of precursor chemicals and the export of drugs."
Full text of report here