Colombia, Peru, Bolivia Plan Unified System to Measure Coca Crops

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The three biggest cocaine producers in the world — Colombia, Peru and Bolivia — are planning to set up a unified system to measure coca production, to allow proper comparisons between the countries.

Peru’s top drug official Carmen Masias said that the decision was taken due to the discrepancies between measurements in coca cultivations in Peru and Colombia in recent years, reports EFE. The scheme will involve setting up teams to oversee the measurement of the crop in each of the three countries.

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The problems with measuring coca cultivation, and cocaine production, are well documented. Figures diverge massively; for 2009, the US government put the area of coca crops in Colombia at 116,000 hectares, while the UN had a figure of 68,000.

For 2010, the US said Peru’s coca cultivation had increased 33 percent from the previous year to 53,000 hectares, while the UN said it had risen only 2 percent, to 61,200 hectares. The magnitude of this divergence, which the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) attributed to differing methodologies, makes it difficult to accurately assess Peru’s coca policies.

However, even if the three governments manage to create a unified crop monitoring system, there are also issues with determining the amount of cocaine produced from a given amount of coca. The latest US statistics say Colombia’s coca crops are almost double the size of Peru’s, but that Colombia has a potential pure cocaine production of 270 tons, compared to Peru’s 325. This is due in part to more mature crops in Peru, as Colombia has carried out more thorough fumigation programs.

Another complication in assessing the Andean countries’ drug production is determining how much of the cocaine is of “export quality.” The US has said that Peru is the biggest cocaine producer in the world, based on these figures, but the latest INCSR report brings in another variable. It says Peru has the world’s highest potential production of pure cocaine, but the second highest production of export quality cocaine, presumably trailing behind Colombia. The report does not say how this is measured, but it likely means Colombian traffickers “cutting” pure cocaine more with other substances before it is exported, giving it more of the drug to export.

Yet another factor that complicates these assessments is the measurement of the dry coca leaf. Peruvian government officials vigorously objected when the UN released a report in 2010 saying Peru had surpassed Colombia in production of dry coca leaf by weight, saying that different drying techniques in the two countries made the figures incompatible.

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