Bolivia says coca production has declined 12 percent

The cultivation of coca bushes in Bolivia decreased by around 12 per cent in 2011, according to a new survey released Monday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The annual survey, jointly produced by U.N. agency and the Bolivian government, found that the area under cultivation reached around 27,200 hectares (about 67,200 acres) last year, compared to 31,000 (76,600 acres) in 2010, marking the end of three years of high levels of cultivation of the bush, which is the raw material for the manufacture of cocaine.

In a news release, the U.N. agency representative in Bolivia, César Guedes, welcomed this positive trend and thanked the government for its drug control efforts.

In 2011, the Government eradicated coca crop from 10,500 hectares (about 25,950 acres), up 28 per cent over the 8,200 hectares (20,260 acres) cleared in 2010.

Satellite images, plane flights and ground surveys of the largest coca-producing regions revealed that Yungas de la Paz, responsible for two-thirds of Bolivia’s coca production, saw an 11 per cent drop in cultivation while the Cochabamba Tropics registered a 15 per cent reduction and the Northern La Paz provinces witnessed a 7 per cent drop.

The Isiboro Sécure national park reduced cultivation by 30 per cent, whereas the Carrasco national park registered only a slight increase of 2 per cent. Overall, the protected areas of the country recorded a 15 per cent decrease, the U.N. agency said.

Lower production prompted a rise in coca leaf prices by 31 per cent in Government-authorized markets and an estimated 16 per cent in illegal markets, the survey stated.

“Higher prices are making coca more attractive, but farmers need viable alternatives if we are to curb illicit crop-growing over the long term,” said Guedes.

Despite lower production, the market value of coca leaf rose to $353 million in 2011, up from $310 million in 2010. This represents 1.5 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and 15.3 per cent of the GDP value of the agricultural sector.

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