A new report by the UN argues that Colombia's cocaine trade is becoming more violent and less profitable for local groups, falling to only 0.3 percent of the country's GDP in 2009.
The study, “New Dimensions of the Colombia Drug Trade,” by Richard Rocha Garcia, is a follow-up to his 2000 book, “The Colombian Economy After 25 Years of Drug Trafficking.” That book gained attention by estimating the amount of Colombia's GDP made up by the cocaine industry. According to Rocha, that number reached a peak in 1967, when cocaine contributed 6.3 percent of Colombia’s GDP.
That number dropped to 1.4 percent in 2001 and 0.3 percent in 2009, according to Rocha’s new book.
“The golden age, when the large [Colombian] drug cartels monopolized the wholesale market, is over,” he told the Miami Herald. “Now those profits are being appropriated by Central America, Venezuela and Mexico.”
However, the declining importance of cocaine to Colombia's economy is likely due to the fact that the GDP is expanding rapidly, as well as to the falling profits from the drug trade. The economy is set to grow 5.5 percent in 2011, and 5.1 percent next year.
The book’s introduction notes that while Colombia has made progress in its coca eradication efforts, global demand for cocaine remains steady and cocaine use in Europe is going up. The cocaine trade is still one of the primary causes of violence in Colombia and is responsible for the deforestation of more than 3,000 square miles since 1981, the report adds.
According to UN statistics, Colombia is still the region’s largest producer of coca and cocaine. Earlier this year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) testified to the US Senate that Peru had surpassed Colombia as the world’s largest potential producer of pure cocaine, an estimate based on the number of Peru’s higher-yielding coca fields.
A version of this article appeared on the Pan-American Post.