Bolivian Traffickers Improve Cocaine Manufacturing to Double Output

Changing the input chemicals used to produce cocaine could be allowing Bolivian traffickers to manufacture twice as much of the drug from the same amount of coca leaves, according to the UN.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) representative Cesar Guedes told AFP news agency, “The production has become more sophisticated over the past three years,” saying that today, “it takes far less coca leaves to produce the same amount of cocaine.”

Chemicals like acetone, sulfuric acid and potassium permanganate are used for different phases in the process that transforms the coca leaf into cocaine. According to authorities in Bolivia, drug traffickers have now begun to use ground coca and cement in the process, bringing greater results.

Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of cocaine, according to the UN. Under Bolivian law 12,000 hectares of land can be used to grow coca for traditional uses, like religious ceremonies or chewing the leaf. According to the 2011 United Nations World Drug Report, however, Bolivia has nearly 31,000 hectares under coca cultivation.

The ability of traffickers to produce greater quantities of cocaine from the coca leaf depending on the chemical inputs is another indication of the difficulty of putting accurate figures on drug production.