HomeNewsChile Becomes Increasingly Fertile Ground for Marijuana Plantations
NEWS

Chile Becomes Increasingly Fertile Ground for Marijuana Plantations

CHILE / 30 MAR 2022 BY HENRY SHULDINER EN

Authorities have discovered several marijuana plantations in a mountainous region of central Chile, revealing that the country is no longer just a major destination point for cannabis but a producer as well.

The latest marijuana farm bust occurred in mid-March, when some 8,600 plants, valued at almost $60 million, were seized in the province of Choapa, outside the coastal city of Coquimbo, La Tercera reported. Earlier in the month, authorities discovered some 4,000 plants in the town of Cabildo, south of Choapa.

The seizures were part of a program by Chile's police investigations unit (Policía de Investigaciones de Chile - PDI) to attack cannabis cultivation and trafficking. The largest discovery this year came in February, when authorities destroyed nearly 27,000 plants on a plantation south of Coquimbo. The farm housed encampments for growers, and the plants were valued at almost $10 million. Other notable discoveries included a January seizure of 7,400 plants valued at $4.75 million.

SEE ALSO: Chile's Microtrafficking Zero Program: Success or Failure?

Marijuana cultivation appears to be on the rise in Chile, according to the 2021 Narcotrafficking Observatory Report published by the Office of the Attorney General. Authorities seized 285,000 plants in 2020, nearly 50,000 more than in 2019, according to the report.

The plantations are often found on ravines and hillsides in areas north of the city of Valparaiso, where the climate is ideal for cannabis cultivation. A report by Chile outlet Meganoticias shows a farm with long irrigation tubes alongside rows of plants in black garbage bags filled with soil. Authorities set the plants ablaze, causing a massive plume of smoke.

InSight Crime Analysis

Marijuana cultivation on a large scale in Chile points toward domestic production becoming an alternative to importing cannabis to feed the country's lucrative local market.

Paraguayan and Bolivian groups have long smuggled illegal marijuana into Chile. Chile has also been a destination for potent marijuana trafficked from Colombia.

The smuggling of marijuana, however, became much more difficult after the shutting of land borders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some criminal groups shifted to maritime routes.

Local cannabis production also filled the void. Seizures of marijuana plants increased from 2019 to 2020, according to Chile's Attorney General's Office. The jump was the result of a "lack of supply of marijuana, especially that of Colombian origin," officials said.

SEE ALSO: By Land and Sea - Chile Dealing with Surge of Creepy Marijuana

Prior to the pandemic, domestic production of marijuana comprised small local growers, according to a 2021 report by La Tercera. The plantations, by contrast, use commercial farming techniques to scale production.

Farms have included large pools to feed sophisticated irrigation systems, and plants are potted in fertilized soil, Felipe Molina, deputy commissioner of the PDI's Metropolitan Anti-narcotics Brigade, told La Tercera.

Chile is a lucrative market for marijuana. The rate of consumption doubled from 2008 to 2018, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) 2021 World Drug Report. A study from Fundación Eutopía, a Chilean nonprofit that advocates for progressive drug policy, estimated the country’s marijuana market to be worth $630 million in 2018. It has likely grown since then.

With such skyrocketing demand, Chilean growers will likely continue to pursue large-scale cultivation, despite the considerable risks.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 23 DEC 2021

A spree of illegal fishing occurred across Latin America this past year, much of it driven by competition for diminishing…

BRAZIL / 1 AUG 2022

Brazil’s cocaine and marijuana markets were affected very differently by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CHAPITOS / 6 DEC 2022

Local drug sales in Sinaloa’s capital city are controlled by one of the most notorious and powerful organized crime families…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…

THE ORGANIZATION

‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…