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Bolivia to Turn Excess Coca into Fertilizer

BOLIVIA / 21 SEP 2011 BY JEANNA CULLINAN EN

Bolivia plans to turn some of the excess coca grown in the country into fertilizer, to prevent it being used to produce cocaine.

By law, some 12,000 hectares of coca can be cultivated in Bolivia. However, the country is estimated to farm some 19,000 to 22,500 hectares on top of this, according to figures quoted by BBC Mundo.

After months of testing, Bolivian authorities are now expanding a pilot program that mixes excess coca with other organic materials, including leaves and chicken excrement, to produce fertilizer. Some 864 tons of illegal coca, confiscated last year, will now be composted.

For many years, Bolivia has burned confiscated leaves, but the process of storing and destroying the stockpiles is expensive. Composting is more economical than burning the excess, because it results in a product that can be sold.

The Bolivian government estimates that between 35 and 40 percent of all coca produced in the country and approximately 10 to 20 percent of legal coca is used to produce cocaine. Bolivian authorities seize approximately 700 tons annually.

The country has recently announced that it may raise the legal limit of coca cultivation to 16,000 hectares.

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