LA PAZ – Bolivia’s crops of coca leaf declined by a scant 1 percent in 2015 and now occupy 20,200 hectares (49,900 acres), according to a report released Tuesday by the United Nations.
The representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonino di Leo, presented a technical study to Bolivian authorities in the Foreign Ministry.
Bolivia, like neighboring Peru, allows the limited cultivation of coca for legal uses in Andean religious rites and as a folk remedy for altitude sickness, but some production is diverted for use as the raw material of cocaine.
Specifically, as the UN study shows, coca crops dropped slightly from 20,400 to 20,200 hectares (50,400 to 49,900 acres), despite efforts made throughout the year by agents of the eradication corps to destroy some 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) of the leaf by hand and with machetes.
The report was prepared with satellite images and the results of inspection missions by land and air in coca-growing areas, similar to studies the UNODC carries out in Peru and Colombia.
The investigation also calculates that potential coca production in Bolivia is around 32,500 metric tons, of which some 65 percent is sold at the country’s only two legal markets for the plant.
The remaining 35 percent of production, equivalent to 11,299 metric tons, does not go through legal markets, the report said.
Bolivian President Evo Morales continues being the leader of coca producers in the Chapare area.
Both the government and farm workers have openly suggested that anti-drug legislation should be changed to increase the amount of coca crops permitted by law from 12,000 to 20,000 hectares (29,600 to 49,400 acres).
Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine, with total output greater than that of Peru and Bolivia combined.