VIENNA, 18 JUNE - The 2007 Andean coca survey, released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), shows a marked increase in coca cultivation. The total area of land under coca cultivation in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru in 2007 was 181,600 hectares, a 16% increase over 2006, and the highest level since 2001 (although well below figures from the 1990s). The increase was driven by a 27% rise in Colombia (for a total of 99,000 hectares), and smaller increases of 5% and 4% respectively in Bolivia and Peru.
Despite the increase in coca cultivation, production was stable. In 2007, global potential production of cocaine reached 994 metric tons (mt), practically unchanged from the 984 mt recorded for 2006, the survey Coca Cultivation in the Andean Region showed.
"The increase in coca cultivation in Colombia is a surprise and shock: a surprise because it comes at a time when the Colombian government is trying so hard to eradicate coca; a shock because of the magnitude of cultivation", said the Executive Director of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa. "But this bad news must be put in perspective". The UNODC coca survey shows that almost half of all cocaine production (288 mt) and one third of the cultivation (35,000 hectares) come from just 10 of the country's 195 municipalities (5%). "Just like in Afghanistan, where most opium is grown in provinces with a heavy Taliban presence, in Colombia most coca is grown in areas controlled by insurgents", observed Mr. Costa.
Even with the significant increase in coca cultivation, cocaine production in Colombia (the world's biggest producer) remained almost unchanged in 2007 (at 600 mt). Lower yields are caused by exploitation of peripheral coca plots - smaller, more dispersed, in remote locations. "In the past few years, the Colombian government destroyed large-scale coca farming by means of massive aerial eradication, which unsettled armed groups and drug traffickers alike. In the future, with the FARC in disarray, it may become easier to control coca cultivation" , said Mr. Costa.
The Executive Director stressed the urgent need to implement comprehensive, large-scale and ecologically friendly agriculture and forestry schemes in coca growing regions. The UNODC survey shows that in Bolivia, coca cultivation has mainly increased in regions such as La Asunta and the Yungas de La Paz, where, to date, investment in development has been scarce. Conversely, regions that have benefited from support for licit livelihood schemes, like Alto Beni, have been able to limit coca cultivation. In Peru, considerable price increases for products such as coffee, palm oil and cocoa, which are being grown under alternative development programmes, are convincing a growing number of farmers not to replant in eradicated coca fields. The UNODC-supported Forest Wardens Families Programme in Colombia assists farmers who make a commitment to voluntarily eradicate coca, while promoting reforestation. "With greater control over national territory, governments can help farmers switch to licit livelihoods and turn their back on drugs. This is the best way of eradicating poverty as well as coca", said the UN drugs chief.
"Andean countries are struggling to tackle the cocaine problem at its source. Countries, in Western Africa, Central America and the Caribbean are caught in the cross-fire of cocaine trafficking. Countries where cocaine consumption is high, such as in Europe and North America, must lower domestic demand", said Mr. Costa.
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Mr. Walter Kemp
Spokesman and Speechwriter
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
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