The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s World Drug Report 2011 showed a 6% decrease in global coca cultivation area directly related to reductions in Colombia, while Peruvian cultivation approaches that of its Andean neighbor.
The three Andean nations responsible for 100% of the world’s coca leaf production, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, saw varying degrees of reduction in cultivation over past ten years.
The overall cultivation area of the illicit crop in the Andean nations fell from 546,844 acres (221,300 hectares) in 2000 to 368,434 acres (149,100 hectares) in 2010.
In 2010, Colombia was reportedly responsible for 153,205 acres (62,000 hectares) of coca cultivations –a reported 15% decrease– while its neighbor, Peru, had an estimated 151,200 acres (61,200 hectares) of cultivation, respresenting a 2% increase from 2009.
According to the report, satellite imaging techniques used to estimate the total coca cultivation area in Colombia are hindered because the size of crops decreased from an average of 5 acres (2 hectares) to between 1.7 acres (0.7 hectares) and 2.2 acres (0.9 hectares) from 1999 to 2006, while the technology which calculates from above works best with areas of more than 6 acres (2.5 hectares).
Colombia’s Pacific region, with the presence of groups such as the FARC guerrilla organization and drug trafficking gang “Los Rastrojos,” represented the majority (42%) of the coca cultivation in the country.
Colombian drug traffickers are faced with more efforts from authorities backed by the United States to erradicate crops both by land and by air.
In a separate report titled “The Latin American Drug Trade,” released by the non-profit research organization RAND, the author Peter Chalk, suggested that the U.S. ought to reduce or eliminate aerial spraying of coca crops because it hurts legitimate farmers as well as encouraging growers to produce higher-yielding and more resistant plants.
In addition, traditional trafficking routes through the Carribbean are more heavily patrolled, forcing Colombian cocaine to take a Pacific or Central American route to Mexico and later to the United States. The report states that Colombian drug traffickers have been mostly forced out of the more lucrative northern portion of the trafficking chain, in effect allowing Colombia to focus more on the western European market.
The report does not provide official statistics on production levels in Bolivia and Peru, but the UNODC and governments from the two countries confirmed that traffickers in these countries may have already reached production efficiency levels of Colombian traffickers.
Peru’s drug traffickers are making advancements in clandestine laboratories and routes, as well as improvements in extracting cocaine alkaloids from the coca leaf, said the UNODC.