According to the latest United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report the production of coca leaves in Peru increased by 10% from 96,304 tons of sun dried coca leaves in 2015 to 105,960 tons in 2016.
And while the cultivation and consumption of coca leaves in Peru dates back thousands of years and is legal for medical purposes and in traditional religious ceremonies of indigenous people, only 10.3% were used for these purposes. A staggering 89.7% however ended up processed to cocaine paste and cocaine hydrochloride in the international drug trade. Revenues from cocaine exports are, depending on the source consulted, equivalent to an estimated 12% to 18% of Peru’s GDP.
During the presentation of the report, Kristian Holge, the UNODC representative in Peru, further announced that the area under coca bush cultivation as well increased form 40,300 hectares in 2015 to an estimated 43,900 hectares in 2016; up 9%, despite ongoing coca crops eradication efforts and the implementation of projects promoting the cultivation of alternative crops. This puts Peru in second place behind Colombia (146,000 hectares) and ahead of Bolivia with 23,100 hectares.
According to the UNODC, 79% of the total coca cultivation area in Peru is located in the valleys of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers (VRAEM region), the region of La Convención Lares and the Inambari Tambopata area. The cities most affected by the coca cultivation include Loreto, Junín, Cusco, Ucayali, Pasco and Huánuco.
The strong increase in the coca leave production and the cultivation areas are attributed to the high demand for cocaine, especially in the US, Europe and Asia. According to the UNOCD, the number of cocaine users in the United States for example grew from 640,000 to 910,000.
Interesting however that Peru despite being among the top coca leaf and coca paste producers in the world, is the country with the lowest cocaine consumption in Latin America