Why Has Cocaine Production Increased in Colombia Despite Peace Agreement? (E)
Colombia’s Tumaco region has the country’s highest number of coca plantations: 16,920 hectares according to official figures. But according to Rear Admiral Carlos Serrano, commander of the Fuerza de Tarea Poseidón (a drug-trafficking task force), the number of hectares could reach up to 29,000.
The region exports 60% of Colombia’s cocaine bound for the United States. Every month there are tonnes of cocaine, ready to be marketed abroad, but the beginning of this supply chain is the peasant farmers.
Don José, one of the coca farmers of Santa Rosa, one hour away from Tumaco by speedboat, has always known that the plant is illegal, but, he says, with no roads connecting to his land to be able to market other products and job opportunities or interested entrepreneurs in the peripheries of the country, the best alternative is growing coca. “We are willing to replace crops, as long as there is a real commitment to support us. The government only comes here by helicopter to damage our crops, shoot us and accuse us of being guerrillas”, says one of the farmers.
The coca leaf is collected every 3 months, whereas as alternatives such as cocao, banana or coconut is harvested annually. Furthermore, with coca, the revenues are four-fold. From his two hectares, Don José harvests 12 kilos of leaves that sell for 2 million pesos ($680 US) per kilo. He earns about 96 million pesos a year ($32,850 US), of which 40 million pesos are left over as net revenues.
Exponential profits have boosted coca plantations in recent years, despite the considerable amounts invested to combat it. According to the US State Department, Colombia experienced a 42% increase in illegal cultivation from 2014 to 2015. Open Democracy