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  • Colombia is the only coca-producing country in the world that has utilized aerial spraying of glyphosate-based defoliants.

    Colombia is the only coca-producing country in the world that has utilized aerial spraying of glyphosate-based defoliants. | Photo: AFP/ Luis Robayo

Published 17 June 2020
Opinion

Although Colombia is one of the world's top cocaine producers, the country has had two consecutive years of reduction of illicit crops.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) informed Wednesday that the production of pure cocaine hydrochloride in Colombia rose by 1.5 percent during 2019, despite a reduction of nine percent of coca plantations across the country.

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The report highlights that the increase in productivity is due to the concentration of crops in productive enclaves where planting and processing of the leaves is facilitated. The estimated production of coca leaf was 993,107 metric tons, representing an increase of 1.5 percent.

The main production areas are located in the northeastern department of Catatumbo, as 36 percent of coca is found in places such as Tumaco, Taraza, San Miguel, Puerto Asis, and El Tambo, among others.

Although Colombia is the world's top cocaine producer, the country has had two consecutive years of reduction of illicit crops, according to UNODC.

However, since 2015, coca crops have concentrated as productive enclaves are formed. That is, territories with conditions conducive to the full production cycle: coca leaf cultivation, processing into cocaine base or cocaine hydrochloride, and trafficking to consumption cores in Colombia and abroad.

The study also revealed that in national parks, crops are present in 14 protected areas, with a total of 6,785 hectares, reflecting a reduction of 13.5 percent. 

On the other hand, 14,022 hectares were reported in Indigenous reservations and in the lands of black communities, presenting a challenge regarding the environment since the government strategy of fumigating coca fields has been criticized by environmentalists as devastating health and causing ecological havoc for vulnerable communities.

Colombia is the only coca-producing country in the world that has utilized aerial spraying of glyphosate-based defoliants, which destroy plant life indiscriminately, as part of an anti-drug program.

The program was firsts halted in 2014, when the World Health Organization revealed that the main ingredient of the spray, glyphosate, most likely cause cancer in humans. However, as production increased during 2019, in January 2020, president Ivan Duque said that he would resume the deathly program to attempt to stop the production with the support of his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.

In May, a Colombian court in San Juan de Pasto ruled that the spraying of the program cannot resume until the government informs and consults with affected communities.

    

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