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WORLD DRUG REPORT: Cocaine supply

HEISENBERG

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Cocaine manufacture reached record levels in 2019 despite growth losing momentum.

The output of global cocaine manufacture doubled between 2014 and 2019 to reach an estimated 1,784 tons (expressed at 100 per cent purity) in 2019, the highest level ever recorded.

At the same time, growth in the output of cocaine manufacture has been slowing, pointing to a trend towards stabilization. Compared with the year prior, global cocaine manufacture increased by 37 per cent in 2016, 23 per cent in 2017, 5 per cent in 2018 and 3.5 per cent in 2019.1 The trend towards stabilization has mainly been the result of changes in coca bush cultivation, despite ongoing increases in productivity (yield per hectare).
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Following years of increase, coca bush cultivation decreased in 2019.

Following a massive upward trend over the period 2013–2017, during which the area under coca bush cultivation more than doubled, the size of the area under coca bush cultivation stabilized in 2018 and then decreased – for the first time in years – by 5 per cent in 2019. This was mainly the result of a decrease reported by Colombia (9 per cent); the area under coca bush cultivation remained stable in Peru and increased in the Plurinational State of Bolivia (by 10 per cent). In 2019, Colombia continued to account for the vast majority of the global area under coca bush cultivation (two thirds), Peru accounted for just under a quarter and the Plurinational State of Bolivia accounted for 11 per cent.

In 2020, despite some disruptions in the cocaine manufacture supply chain at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it did not seem that coca bush cultivation in any of the three countries was significantly affected by the restrictions implemented in response to the pandemic.
 
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Coca bush cultivation has decreased in most parts of Colombia and is becoming increasingly concentrated.

The overall area under coca bush cultivation in Colombia decreased by 1 per cent in 2018 and by 9 per cent in 2019 compared with the previous year, with decreases observed in all the main coca bush-cultivating regions of the country other than Catatumbo (Departments of Norte de Santander and Cesar), which borders the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

In 2019, coca bush cultivation was found in 22 of the 32 departments in Colombia; of those, 17 reported decreases in the area under cultivation compared with the previous year and 5 reported increases. The increases were minimal in most cases, except for Norte de Santander, the department with the largest area under coca bush culti-vation in 2019, where the increase was 24 per cent. Nonetheless, most of the coca bush cultivation in Colombia continues to take place in the south of the country, where the Departments of (in order of the size of the area under coca bush cultivation) Nariño, Putumayo, Cauca and Caquetá accounted for 54 per cent of the total area under coca bush cultivation. The size of the area under coca bush cultivation decreased, however, in most of the country's southern departments in 2019.

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At the same time, coca bush cultivation is becoming increasingly concentrated in Colombia: two thirds of coca bush cultivation took place on just 5 per cent of the territory affected by such cultivation in Colombia in 2019, up from 62 per cent in 2018.

The overall decrease in coca bush cultivation, going hand in hand with a concentration of such cultivation, is likely the result of a number of factors. Beyond a steep increase in manual eradication since 2017, which in 2019 reached a level almost as high as that seen at its peak, in 2008, the decrease in cultivation has also been linked to successes in alternative development efforts. While in territories where no intervention was recorded the overall area under cultivation declined by 2 per cent in 2019, the overall decline as compared to a year earlier amounted to 22 percent in areas where an intervention with regard to eradication and/or alternative development took place in 2019.

Despite a decrease in coca bush cultivation, greater productivity has seen cocaine manufacture in Colombia increase slightly.



Despite a decrease of 9 per cent in the overall area under coca bush cultivation in Colombia from 2018 to 2019, the “productive” area under coca bush cultivation remained more or less stable in 2019, as previously sown fields became productive in 2019. At the same time, the concentration of coca bush cultivation in areas where yields are higher than in others meant that overall coca leaf yield continued to increase (from 4.7 tons per hectare in 2014 to 5.8 tons in 2018 and 5.9 tons in 2019). This resulted in an increase in coca leaf production, despite a decrease in the area cultivated, and thus in a small increase in the cocaine manufactured in Colombia (1.5 per cent in 2019). Overall, productivity continued to increase, from an average of 6.3 kg of cocaine hydrochloride per harvested hectare in 2014 to 6.5 kg in 2018 and 6.7 kg in 2019 this also reflects ongoing improvements in the efficiency of cocaine-manufacturing laboratories.

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Area under coca bush cultivation, Peru, 2019.

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After a long-term decrease in coca bush cultivation in Peru throughout the 1990s and a resurgence in the early 2000s, the area under coca bush cultivation in the country fluctuated between 40,000 ha and 60,000 ha in the 2010s. Since 2015, coca bush cultivation and potential production output have undergone moderate year-on-year increases, although the area under coca bush cultivation in Peru stabilized in 2019, growing by just 1 per cent compared with the previous year. Inverse trends have been observed over time between the area under cultivation and eradication, although a stabilization of both cultivation and eradication was reported in 2019.

Most of the areas under coca bush cultivation in Peru continued to be found in the valley of the rivers Apurí-mac, Ene and Mantaro (VRAEM), followed by La Convención y Lares and Inambari-Tambopata. While the area under coca bush cultivation in VRAEM and in Inam-bri-Tambopata continued to grow after 2013, coca bush cultivation decreased in La Convención y Lares as well as in the traditional coca-producing region of Huallaga, which only accounted for 3 per cent of the national total in 2019.
 
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Area under coca bush cultivation, Bolivia , 2019.
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Coca bush cultivation in the Plurinational State of Bolivia increased in 2019.
Following a decrease of 6 per cent in the area under coca bush cultivation in the Plurinational State of Bolivia in 2018, it grew by 10 per cent in 2019 to reach 25,500 ha.

Similar to the situation in neighbouring Peru, there has been an inverse trend in the area under coca bush cultivation and eradication in the Plurinational State of Bolivia. While rationalization and eradication decreased by some 2,000 ha in 2019, the area under coca bush cultivation grew by some 2,400 ha. In parallel, the control exercised by coca farmers’ unions over their members, which limits the area under coca bush cultivation to 1 cato (1,600 m2) per family, also appears to have dwindled in 2019.

Some coca bush cultivation took place in areas that had been deforested in the previous year, posing a particular challenge to the country’s forest ecosystem, especially in protected areas such as the national parks of Madidi and Amboró. Nevertheless, with 64 per cent of the coca bush cultivated in the traditional coca-producing area of Yungas de La Paz, this region continued to account for the most coca bush cultivation in 2019. This was followed by Trópico de Cochabamba (34 per cent) and, to a much lesser extent, Norte de La Paz (2 per cent). Increases in cultivation from 2018 to 2019 were reported in all three regions.
 
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