Peru Becomes World’s Top Coca Leaf Producer; Colombia Remains Largest Cocaine Manufacturer

A man uses coca leaves to make cocaine in Colombia.
A man uses coca leaves to make cocaine in Colombia.
A man uses coca leaves to make cocaine in Colombia.
A man uses coca leaves to make cocaine in Colombia.

Once synonymous with cocaine, Colombia has lost the title of world’s leading producer of coca leaf to its Andean neighbor Peru, according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report.

An estimated 45.4 percent of coca in the world comes from Peru, while only 39.3 percent now comes from Colombia and 15.3 percent from Bolivia. Coca cultivation in Colombia has declined by 16 per cent to 68,000 hectares, a drop of almost 60 percent since the peak production period a decade ago, according to the UNODC.

However, Peruvian coca farmers planted 59,000 hectares of coca in 2009, a 6.8% increase from 2008, and produced 119,000 tons of coca leaf.

“Peru has surpassed Colombia as the world’s leading coca leaf producer,” Aldo Lale, the UNODC representative in Bogotá, said at a press conference, according to AFP.

Coca cultivation in Colombia has decreased in large part due to U.S.-backed aerial spraying of coca fields with pesticides, as well as “manual eradication” programs where workers dig up coca bushes by hand. The Colombian government receives more than $600 million every year in U.S. anti-narcotics aid, which is more money than for any other country in the world outside the Middle East and Afghanistan.

While Peru is now the world’s top producer of coca leaf, Colombia still maintains its hold as the largest producer of cocaine. Colombia produced 410 metric tons of the illicit substance in 2009 to the estimated 302 tons produced by Peru in the same year.

Image: Jungle Boy @ Flickr.

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