LIMA (Reuters) – Peru has eclipsed Colombia as home to the biggest fields of coca, a South American plant used to make cocaine, after its neighbour cut the total area of its crop by a quarter last year, a UN study said yesterday.
In 2012 coca plants covered 60,400 hectares (149,251 acres) in Peru – 20 per cent more than in Colombia, according to the report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Coca stopped gaining ground in Peru for the first time in seven years in 2012, when the crop covered 3.4 per cent less than the year prior.
But eradication efforts in Colombia were more effective – helping slash the total area of coca-growing fields by 25 per cent to 48,000 hectares (119,000 acres) last year, the UN said.
Peru last year also produced more coca leaf than Colombia in terms of weight with an estimated 128,739 tons – 1.9 per cent less than in 2011.
It is unclear which country now produces the most cocaine.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, a former army officer who assumed office in 2011, has intensified eradication operations in the past year and cracked down on rebels that control drug-trafficking in a swath of jungle valleys known as the VRAEM, one of the densest coca-growing regions in the world and the source of about 56 percent of Peru’s coca leaf output.
Earlier this year, Peru vowed to uproot coca crops for the first time ever in the VRAEM, but the government has yet to launch an eradication operation there and declined to say when it would.