HomeNewsColombia Sees Historic Levels of Coca Cultivation and Cocaine Production
NEWS

Colombia Sees Historic Levels of Coca Cultivation and Cocaine Production

COCA / 20 OCT 2022 BY JUAN DIEGO POSADA EN

Colombia has reached its highest-ever levels of coca production and potential cocaine production according to a new UN report, which pointed to the profitability of coca crops and greater agricultural efficiency as being partially responsible.

In 2021, coca cultivation increased by 43% and potential cocaine production by 14%, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) Integrated Illicit Crop Monitoring System (SIMCI) report, presented on October 20. 

Coca cultivation reached 204,000 hectares in 2021 from 143,000 hectares in 2020, reversing the downward trend seen during the previous three years. Potential cocaine production, meanwhile, continued its recent upward trend to reach 1,400 tons in 2021 against 1,228 tons in 2020.

Almost two-thirds of coca crops were found in the departments of Nariño, Norte de Santander, and Putumayo.

UNODC director for the Andean Region and Southern Cone, Candice Welsch, explained that the historic increase was primarily driven by more productive coca fields and improved cocaine production techniques. Economic uncertainty in cultivation zones and heightened international demand for cocaine also helped cultivation flourish. 

SEE ALSO: Colombia's Cocaine Keeps On Reaching New Heights: UNODC Report

The findings arrive as the government of President Gustavo Petro attempts to establish a drugs policy based on the 2016 Peace Accords, signed by the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC).

Here, InSight Crime reviews the most striking takeaways from the UNODC report.

Coca Cultivation Brings Economic Bonanza

The report found that residents of coca cultivation zones implicitly accept drug trafficking groups due to the economic stability brought by cocaine production, said Leonardo Correa, coordinator of SIMCI. Cultivation then grows further.

"The [economic] ’security' provided by the IAGs [Illegal Armed Groups] facilitates the negotiation of large volumes of cocaine," the report noted.

Increased investment into cultivation and production has been reflected in the growth of licit commercial activities like entertainment, specialized services, and the buying and selling of cars in local areas.

Eradication efforts would therefore have a notable impact on the livelihoods of these communities, the report found.

"There is an economy that will be affected if coca disappears," Correa explained.

The official also remarked on the spread of coca cultivation and cocaine production outside of the traditional enclaves. While coca cultivation grew by 32% in traditional cultivation enclaves, it also grew by 33% in the immediate 12 square kilometers surrounding those core areas, as well as 10% in other areas. This was due to a lack of intervention from authorities, socioeconomic changes brought about by the pandemic, and the position of criminal groups. If this continues, these areas are expected to increase in the next two years.

"We are losing the fight inside [the enclaves] and outside," Correa concluded.

UNODC graphic shows how coca cultivation has expanded outside of the core cultivation enclaves

Improved Processes and Networks 

The report found that armed groups are using more and higher-quality agricultural products during the cultivation process, enabling them to obtain enhanced alkaloid yields from the coca leaf and leading to improved extraction efficiency. 

"The use of agricultural products is better and more efficient," said Correa. He added that coca fields found in the most consolidated cultivation zones in 2021 were at their most productive ages and were 2.4 times more productive than those outside of the zones.

Added to this is the fact that 12 of the country's 14 productive enclaves are located in border areas or have maritime access, facilitating the movement of coca or cocaine for drug trafficking. This also explains the entrenched nature of cultivation and the improved cocaine production techniques in these areas. 

According to Correa, these "are the drug trafficking sites where they want to keep the coca.”

UNODC map shows cultivation density in Colombia's main coca cultivation zones

Government Intentions

Both Correa and Welsch pointed out that these results were also contrasted with the high expectations of the peace agreement signed by the government and the FARC in 2016.

During the presentation, Colombia's Justice Minister Néstor Osuna explained that the government sees the Accords as a "road map" and that it wishes to implement the crop substitution policy included in this agreement.

SEE ALSO: Peace Dissipates as the Cocaine War Intensifies in Putumayo

He acknowledged that residents in coca-production zones continue to experience a high level of poverty, which has allowed coca cultivation to flourish.

Osuna said that the previous government's policies were "unsuccessful" and that the new administration would transition coca cultivation to a legal economy. However, cocaine would not be legalized, he said.

"To seek an alternative for coca growers and cultivators that allows them to live better ... to continue with coca cultivation in order to create an industry with the licit uses of coca leaf that already exist ... It is not about eradicating the plant, it is about having a secure economy," he said.

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

COCAINE / 25 FEB 2021

Despite boasting one of Paraguay’s lowest murder rates, Ñeembucú is an important transit point for marijuana heading to Argentina.

COCAINE / 7 APR 2022

Following an accelerating trend in the region, self-described anti-establishment candidate, Rodrigo Chaves, won Costa Rica's runoff presidential election with nearly…

COLOMBIA / 15 APR 2021

Colombia remains a hotspot for forced recruitment of minors. In this, the last of a three-part investigation by InSight Crime,…

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…