Coca cultivation continues to rise in Peru


Coca cultivation rose 2.2 percent in the last year. (Photo: Living in Peru archive)

A report released Thursday in Lima by the UN and the National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs (Devida) says that coca cultivation in Peru has increased for the fifth consecutive year.

In 2005, the country had an area of coca cultivation from 48,200 hectares. In 2009 that figure rose to 59,900 hectares. Today it stands at 61,200 hectares. In a year it rose 2.2 percent.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s coca cultivation dropped 15 percent from the previous year.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that while overall coca production in the Andes was down by 6 percent in 2010 compared to the year before, the increase in Peru is proof positive of the “balloon effect” that drug war watchers always warn about: when pressure is applied in one area, production “balloons” in another.

Although the report does not contain data on cocaine production, Peru.21 warned last year that the country was on course to becoming the largest producer of the product. Peru is already the leading exporter of this drug, the newspaper reports.

Devida president, Rómulo Pizarro, said that regardless of who heads the world’s list of producers, it is more important to recognize the influence of drugs as "generator of corruption, violence and terrorism in the country."

He added that the drug trade injects between $2 and $2.5 billion a year in the economy, and the Peruvian government only spends $420 million in its different drug policies to combat it. He calls for more support from the U.S. and Europe, where cocaine consumption is concentrated.

Despite the alarming figures, Pizarro said that "good news" is that growth in the acres of the crop has fallen. In 2008 it rose 4.5 percent, in 2009 it was up 6 percent and in 2010 it remained at 2.2 percent.

He also stressed that crop substitution programs have lead to a 25 percent reduction in the crop in some regions previously devoted almost exclusively to coca, such as the Upper Huallaga. However, he recognized that the coca growers have moved their crops to other parts of the country, and therefore the end result is an increase.