Cost of coca eradication skyrockets

Colombia’s illicit crop eradication strategy will cost the country more than $1.5 billion between 2010 and 2013, a figure almost double what was spent between 2003 and 2009, El Dinero reported Wednesday.

A report released by Colombia’s National Planning Department (DNP) indicates that an increased focus on manual rather than aerial eradication, and the integration of different programs, such as schemes to prevent farmers growing illicit crops in the first place, have ballooned the program budget to $1.545 billion.

From 2003-2009, Colombia invested $835 million in its eradication program.

The DNP report also noted that the new strategy will reflect the reality that the Colombian cartels driving the production of illicit drugs have effectively adapted to the government’s eradication strategies.

“Despite the efforts made by Colombia, the production and trafficking of illicit drugs has succeeded in adapting to government action,” the report noted.

According to a United Nations report released two weeks ago, Colombia continues to be the world leader in terms of hectares of coca plants. Despite dropping 16% from 2008, Colombian farmers in 2009 planted 68,000 hectares of coca, yielding 103,000 tons of coca leaf.

The DNP report goes on to recommend that President-Elect Juan Manuel Santos, who will assume office on August 7, pursues a strategy focused on manual crop eradication carried out in a sustainable manner.

“The goal is to secure comprehensive and sustainable processes of manual eradication, and [offer the farmers] alternative development [programs] to make sure that the areas stay free of illicit crops,” the report explained.

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