BOGOTA, 20 June 2006 (UNODC) - Coca cultivation in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru was stable in 2005 but the three Andean nations need significant international assistance if recent gains made in eradicating coca are to be maintained, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on Tuesday.
UNODC's 2005 Andean Coca Survey shows that coca cultivation in the region, which accounts for the entire global output of cocaine, rose one percent to 159,600 hectares from 2004.
This reflected an 8% increase in cultivation in Colombia, while coca cultivation in Bolivia and Peru fell by 8% and 4% respectively. Global cocaine production fell three percent to 910 metric tons in 2005.
"The drug control balance in the Andean region is fragile," said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, presenting the Survey at a news conference in Bogota.
"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 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 percent of total cultivation. Peru was second with 30% and Bolivia third with 16%.
The area under coca cultivation in Colombia rose by 6,000 hectares to 86,000 after four consecutive years of decline despite the continued efforts of the Government to eradicate coca crops. But this was still well below the peak of 163,300 hectares recorded in 2000.
New research by UNODC and the Colombian government indicates that coca crops have been producing a substantially higher yield than was previously realised. Production estimates for 2005 and 2004 have been calculated on this new basis.
"The higher than expected average annual yields may help to explain why the price and purity of cocaine have remained steady on the streets of consuming countries despite the overall reduction in world supply and a dramatic increase in cocaine seizures," Mr Costa said.
Global cocaine seizures rose 18% to 588 metric tons in 2004, the highest figure ever recorded. For the third year in a row, Colombia topped the rankings for seizures.
The UNODC Executive Director said the record seizures of cocaine showed that cooperation in international law enforcement was improving.
"The same efficiency and enthusiasm should be shown in tackling corruption and organized crime in order to go after the billions of dollars that are being made through the narco-economy - money that is empowering cartels, funding insurgency and even financing terrorism," he said.
Mr Costa 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 added.
Andean Coca Survey 2005 - Executive Summary (pdf)
For the full Survey (pdf), click here
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