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  June 17, 2004

UN Drugs Office Launches Coca Surveys for Colombia, Bolivia and Peru

VIENNA, 17 June (UN Information Service) – In the five-year period following the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, the total area under coca cultivation in the Andean region – Bolivia, Colombia and Peru – declined by 20 per cent, reaching a 14-year low of 153,800 hectares in 2003.

“The reduction of coca cultivation in Colombia to 86,000 hectares in 2003, a decline of 16 per cent with respect to last year is the most encouraging result of this year’s United Nations coca surveys in the region. It is the third consecutive annual decrease since 2000, resulting in a total reduction of the area under coca cultivation in Colombia by an impressive 47 per cent,” Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said at the press conference in Washington, DC, announcing the findings of the 2003 Coca Surveys for Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.

A positive trend in recent years in Colombia follows the dramatic reduction in coca cultivation in Peru and Bolivia since the mid-1990s. The coca surface in Peru stood at 44,200 hectares in 2003, representing a 13 per cent reduction since 1998. The 2003 cultivation at 23,600 hectares in Bolivia was only half the levels estimated in the early and mid-1990s but registered a slight increase compared to 2002.

“The importance of a steady decline of coca cultivation in the Andean region can not be overestimated. The three countries combined produce virtually all of the world’s supply of cocaine. To sustain this trend, we need to convince coca farmers (and not only force them) to abandon illegal activity by providing them with a sustainable livelihood alternative. It was such a combination of sustained government eradication and the creation of jobs for farmers that made dramatic decrease in coca cultivation in Peru and Bolivia in the 1990s possible and lasting. The sustainability of further decline of cultivation in Colombia depends on this,” Mr. Costa said.

Mr. Costa added that the responsibility in reducing the illicit drugs production lies also with the consuming countries. “Demand drives production. The global cocaine problem will not be solved unless, and until, consuming countries reduce addiction.”

In Colombia – the survey showed that, at the end of December 2003, about 86,000 hectares of coca were cultivated, a 16 per cent decline from an estimated 102,000 hectares in December 2002.

The most significant reductions were found in the regions of Putumayo (-61,666 hectares or 45 per cent decrease), Guaviare (-11,218 hectares or 41 per cent) and Norte de Santander (-4,471 hectares or 44 per cent). Coca cultivation increased in two regions: Nariño (+17,628 hectares or 17 per cent) and Meta (+12,695 hectares or 38 per cent).

An interesting change was the decrease of the average size of coca parcels: 93 per cent of all coca fields were smaller than 3 hectares, accounting for approximately 69 per cent of the total cultivation, while previously large plantations have largely disappeared over the past three years.
The total farm gate value of the estimated 440 tonnes of coca base produced in Colombia in 2003 would amount to about US$ 350 million, compared to the US$ 491 million in 2002.

“While Colombia remains the world’s top coca producing country, resources allocated for better living conditions in coca areas are among the lowest in the world. The country definitely needs more rural and infrastructure investments in order to sustain the coca eradication results.” Mr. Costa said.

In Peru – the total area under coca cultivation in 2003 is estimated at 44,200 hectares, representing a 5.4 per cent decline compared to an estimated 46,700 hectares under cultivation in 2002. The total production of dry coca leaf for 2003 was estimated at 50,790 metric tonnes, a 3.3 per cent or 1,759 tonnes less than in 2002.

In 2003, the Peruvian Government reported the eradication on 11,312 hectares of coca, of which 7,022 hectares (62 per cent) were under programmed illicit crop elimination campaigns and 4,290 hectares (38 per cent) were under farmers’ voluntary coca reduction initiatives in exchange for sustainable livelihood schemes.

“The lower coca cultivation level in Peru constitutes no grounds for complacency. Coca farming techniques have been enhanced in key growing areas. In future years we could face higher yields per hectare. Equally important, the year 2003 has been characterized by heightened social tension and violence in Peru’s coca growing areas that could result in a reversal of the positive results achieved in 2003 unless further development assistance is provided,” Mr. Costa warned.

In Bolivia – UNODC has been assisting the Government in monitoring coca trends for years but the 2003 Coca Survey is the first ever providing an estimate on coca cultivation for the whole country.

The survey revealed that 23,600 hectares were under coca bush cultivation in Bolivia in December 2003. Precise comparison with the 2002 levels was not possible but the estimated increase in cultivation in the Yungas of La Paz, which accounted for 69 per cent of the total coca cultivation in the country, represented a worrying sign of possible overall increase with the potential cocaine production of 60 metric tonnes in 2003. The estimated cultivation on 23,600 hectares included 12,000 hectares under cultivation permitted by Bolivian law for traditional uses, such as leaf chewing, medical preparations and coca tea.

“A cause for concern in Bolivia is that coca cultivation is shifting towards national parks, irreversibly damaging national parks and biosphere reserves.” said Mr. Costa. He also encouraged the Bolivian Government to sustain its successful efforts towards the reduction of coca cultivation and called on the donor countries and multilateral institutions to engage in commercially viable and environmentally sound actions to guarantee a licit and sustainable income for the rural poor.

UNODC Andean Coca Surveys are based on the interpretation of high-resolution satellite images complemented by extensive ground verification.

The press conference in Washington, DC, was hosted by Cesar Gaviria, Secretary General, Organization of American States (OAS), and David Beall, Executive Secretary, Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), with the participation of senior officials from all three countries: Diego Montenegro Ernst(Spanish), Minister of Agriculture of Bolivia; Luis Alberto Moreno, Ambassador of Colombia to the USA; and Nils Ericsson Correa, Executive Secretary of National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs (DEVIDA), of Peru(Spanish).

In addition to the Washington, DC, press conference, the results of the Andean Coca Surveys 2003 were announced at UNODC press briefings in Vienna (by Cristina Albertin and Denis Destrebecq) and in New York (by Vincent McClean).

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Reference: UN-0617