Peru Coca Cultivation Down 17%, but Gains Unlikely to Last

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The number of hectares of coca cultivated in Peru decreased by 17.5 percent in 2013, causing an increase in the costs of cocaine, but these gains may be reversed by the new government’s plan to end forced eradication in a key coca-producing region.

A report issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (pdf) highlighted a decrease in the area used for coca cultivation, from 60,400 hectares in 2012 to 49,800 hectares in 2013.  

The UNODC attributed the decline to the government’s coca eradication and crop substitution programs, and a representative for the organization said 2013 figures marked the most significant reduction in eight years, reported the Associated Press.    

As production has decreased, the price of cocaine has gone up significantly. In 2013, a kilo of cocaine cost $1,310 in Peru, compared to $993 in 2012, according to UNODC figures. The price of coca base has also gone up, along with the value of coca leaves.     

Although Peru became the world’s biggest coca producer in 2012, the UNODC has not yet determined whether the country still retains this position, as coca cultivation figures have yet to be released for Colombia and Bolivia.

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In spite of the apparent success of Peru’s coca eradication campaign, the government recently announced it would no longer forcibly eradicate in the VRAEM region — the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys — where over 57 percent of the country’s coca was grown in 2013. At the beginning of June, the government slashed its 2014 coca eradication goal in the region from 15,000 to 5,000 hectares, a decision authorities said was partly in response to the threat posed by the Shining Path guerrilla group in the area. 

Although government officials say they are still on target to eradicate 30,000 hectares of coca in 2014, it is likely ending forced eradication in the VRAEM region will challenge the downward trend reported by the UNODC.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles        

While the prices of coca and its derivatives may be rising as the area of production decreases, Peruvian cocaine still costs less than in neighboring countries, making Peru an attractive source of the drug for criminals.

Peruvian cocaine, at just over $1,300, is still comparatively cheap. Cocaine sells for around $2,500 a kilo in Colombia, while in Bolivia the price is around $1,800. Part of the discrepancy in prices may be due to tighter controls on the precursor chemicals needed to process cocaine in Colombia and the higher threat of interdiction. In Peru, precursors are easier to obtain and interdiction much weaker, particularly for drug shipments moved by air. 

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