Colombia’s potential cocaine production reached a new high in 2019 despite a drop in registered hectares of coca, the base ingredient of the illicit drug, according to the United Nations.
In its annual report, the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that it had registered a 9% decrease in the hectares used for the cultivation of coca, contrary to the US government, which claimed this number has gone up.
Coca cultivation and eradication
Sources: US Department of State / UNODC
Despite the registered drop in coca cultivation from 169,000 in 2018 to 154,000 last year, the UNODC said potential cocaine production has gone up 1.5% from 1,120 to 1,137 metric tons of cocaine.
Due to a slight increase in cocaine seizures reported by Colombian authorities, potential cocaine exports would have dropped 0.4%.
Potential cocaine production and exports
Whether the president’s strategy is sustainable begs the question as the authorities’ dramatic increase in the forced eradication of coca last year saw a 30% drop in the first four months of 2020.
US President Donald Trump told his Colombian counterpart “you are going to have to” resort to the aerial fumigation of coca, but this controversial strategy is blocked by the court.
Duque will be allowed to resume aerial fumigation, but only if he complies with the antinarcotics element of a 2016 peace deal with demobilized FARC guerrillas, which is all but comatose.
The UNODC, which monitored the crop substitution agreed with farmers, said that the voluntary eradication of coca, which is widely considered the most effective, dropped from 31,721 hectares in 2018 to 6,765 hectares last year.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic may have complicated the execution of both counternarcotics strategies, which appears to have benefited the illegal armed groups involved in the drug trade.
Furthermore, the narcos continue to improve their production capabilities, which allows them to maintain cocaine production levels using less hectares of coca.