Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coca cultivation decreased in Colombia in 2009

Every June, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime issues a report with the results of its efforts to monitor coca cultivation in the Andean region. The report has not been officially released yet, but some media outlets have gotten their hands on the new cultivation numbers for Colombia.

Reports, such as this one in El Tiempo, indicate that coca cultivation in Colombia actually decreased by 16% in 2009, with 68,025 hectares under cultivation in 2009 compared to 81,000 hectares in 2008.

This decrease is unexpected for two reasons. First, the 2009 economic downturn, combined with the collapse of several large pyramid schemes, hit rural Colombia quite hard and would have been expected to push farmers into planting coca. Second, for the first time in a decade, Colombia saw a decrease in forced eradication of coca - both manual eradication and aerial herbicide fumigation - in 2009.

The 2009 eradication reduction itself owed to a lack of funds related to the economic downturn. In 2008, 95,731 hectares of coca were manually eradicated, while 60,500 were eradicated in 2009. Fumigation decreased from 133,496 hectares in 2008 to 104,772 in 2009.

El Tiempo did note that cultivation of coca increased in three of Colombia's departments in 2009: Cauca, Gauviare, and Córdoba. According to the article, Colombia's Counternarcotics Police attribute these increases to the following factors:

  • In Córdoba: The rise of emerging criminal groups or "new" paramilitaries in the department. Aerial fumigation is also not permitted in the Paramillo natural park, where coca cultivation is concentrated.
  • In Cauca: The FARC has concentrated its attacks and kidnappings in this region.
  • In both Guaviare and Cauca: The Counternarcotics Police say the "impossibility of entering indigenous territories" to conduct manual eradication is a major factor.

Below are two graphs. The first plots UN estimates of coca cultivation in the Andean region. The second plots total coca eradication in Colombia over the past decade. The UN has not released cultivation calculations for Bolivia or Peru this year, but we will update the graphs when those numbers are available.