Coca In The Andes

Coca, the raw material for cocaine, is grown exclusively in the Andean region of South America. Cocaine production constitutes a threat to U.S. security and the well-being of our citizens. According to U.S. Government estimates, ninety-five percent of the cocaine entering the United States originates in Colombia. Peru and Bolivia are the other Andean nations with significant levels of coca cultivation, but most of the cocaine produced from Peruvian and Bolivian coca is trafficked within South America or to Europe and Asia.

Targeting cocaine at the source consists of disrupting coca cultivation, cocaine processing and trafficking in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia along three vectors: eradication, interdiction, and organizational attack. However, the important measure is not cultivation. It is production potential – the amount of cocaine that can be produced from the cultivation of coca that is the important measure. Due to stressors on the cultivation, the potential production that can be produced from a given cultivation of coca can vary. One significant stressor is eradication – it is capable of making coca fields less productive by reducing the yield of cocaine from given coca fields: by repeatedly eradicating fields, the fields can no longer produce four crops a year, for example, reducing their output, sometimes by as much as 50 percent; 100 percent if a farmer abandons it because he gets tired of losing his investment due to eradication efforts.

What Is Being Done 

Voluntary, manual, and aerial spray eradication are important elements in the strategy for reducing potential coca base and cocaine production in the Andean Ridge. Eradication affects drug traffickers and terrorist groups, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), before they can be market the cocaine, reducing the illicit drug proceeds that support their operations. Aerial eradication, used only in Colombia, is an important tool in remote and insecure areas where manual eradication is cost prohibitive or too dangerous. Manual eradication has grown in importance as a complement to aerial eradication; however, as eradicators become more effective, they have increasingly become the target of mines and explosive devices from cultivators and terrorists trying to protect their illicit crops. The Colombian government reported 32 police, military, and civilian eradicator fatalities and nearly 150 injured personnel as a result of improvised explosive devices, sniper fire, and other attacks during their manual eradication operations in 2010. 

In several interviews with former coca growers in Peru and Colombia, they overwhelmingly reported that the single most important factor in motivating them to move to licit crops was the threat of eradication. The former coca growers indicated they are happier growing licit crops for which they have a reasonable market, even though they knew they would not make as much money per hectare as they did with coca. These former coca growers said that while growing coca may pay more, growing coca was not worthwhile due to the associated violence, threats to their families, and other problems that resulted from coca cultivation. They also indicate that security is a necessary requirement for their successful transition from coca to licit crops, as they could not have made the transition if criminal/terrorist groups still operated in the area.

In the Andean Ridge, the reduction of coca cultivation and cocaine production is possible through closely coordinated security, eradication, and alternative development programs. To successfully transition coca-growing areas to the legal economy, a combination of security, eradication, and alternative development programs is necessary, in a proportion that depends upon the unique local conditions in the area. The most effective way of reducing the production of illicit drugs is through the expansion of governance into marginalized areas so that all citizens can have access to government services, protection from terrorist or criminal groups and a licit manner in which to earn a living.

Colombia

Coca cultivation in Colombia declined by 53 percent from 2007 until 2012 and remained stable in 2013, as aerial and manual eradication programs showed strong results.  Cocaine production potential also continued to decline and then remain stable in this same time period, thanks in large part to Colombia’s National Consolidation Plan targeting key cultivation with a mixture of eradication, security, state presence, and alternative development.  U.S. government data for coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia showed a significant increase in 2014.  Several factors likely influenced this, including increased cultivation in areas off limits to aerial eradication.

The expansion of security by both the Colombian military and police into areas long dominated by coca cultivation and illegal armed groups has allowed the Colombian government to focus on establishing government presence.  The United States continues to support the Government of Colombia in stemming the flow of drugs produced abroad and in reducing the devastating consequences of drug production, trafficking, and consumption.  The United States also continues to transfer operational and funding responsibility for counternarcotics and security programs to the Colombian government as part of a larger multi-year strategy designed to consolidate state presence and economic development in historically marginalized regions.

 

  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012  2013 2014
Cultivation
(Hectares)
169,800 144,450 113,850 114,100 144,000 157,000 167,000 119,000 116,000 100,000 83,000 78,000 80,500 112,000
Production Potential
(Metric Tons)
700 585 445 410 500 510 450 265 260 240 180 165 185 245
Eradication
(Air)
84,251 122,695 127,112 131,824 134,474 164,119 148,435 129,876 101,573 97,836 103,302 100,549 47,052 55,553
Eradication
(Manual, Hectares)
1,745 2,762 4,220 6,232 37,540 42,110 64,979 95,731 60,954 43,957 34,592 30,486 22,120 11,703


Peru

The Government of Peru’s continued dedication to eradicate coca and support alternative development helped make the 2014 coca cultivation estimate the lowest in recent years. The United States has assisted in these efforts by working closely with the Government of Peru and by providing material and technical assistance.  While there has been a downward trend in estimated cultivation over time in areas where the Government of Peru has eradication, interdiction, and alternative development programs, the total cocaine production estimate for 2014 rose by approximately 7%. This was largely due to an increase in the number of fully productive mature fields that can produce higher quantities of cocaine and where eradication is not done due to security concerns.  The U.S. and Peru have a long-standing partnership in efforts to address this problem, and the U.S. remains committed to supporting the Government of Peru as it confronts this threat.  
 
 

  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Cultivation
(Hectares)
32,100 34,700 29,250 27,500 34,000 42,000 36,000 41,000 40,000  53,000 49,500 50,500 59,500 46,500
Production Potential
(Metric Tons)
255 280 245 230 260 265 185 185 195  280 260 250 265 285
Eradication
(Manual, Hectares) 
6,436 7,133 7,022 7,605 8,966 10,136 11,056 10,143 10,025 12,033 10,290 14,171 23,785 31,205

Bolivia

The U.S. remains concerned over reports of drug trafficking organizations establishing operations in Bolivia. The United States continues to seek ways to cooperate with the Bolivian government in areas such as arresting drug traffickers, disrupting cocaine production, and seizing illicit drugs and precursors.  The United States uses a variety of methods, including satellite imagery, as a basis for its estimate of coca cultivation in Bolivia.  We are confident in our methodology.  

 

  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Cultivation 19,900 21,600 23,200 24,600 21,500 21,500 24,000 26,500 29,000  29,000  25,500 25,000  NA 35,000
Production Potential
(Metric Tons)
100 110 100 115 115 115 130 150 150 160  175 145  NA 210
Eradication
(Manual, Hectares) 
9,435 11,839 10,000 8,437 6,073 5,70 6,269 5,484 6,341 8,200  10,509 >10,000  NA NA