Post-conflict minister Rafael Pardo, acknowledged that coca cultivation will increase in 2017 in an interview conducted by W Radio. The new position was established by the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC.
According to drug and crime figures from the United Nations, 2015 was Colombia’s largest coca crop production year since 2007. 96,000 hectares of Colombian territory were covered with the coca plant and it is estimated that during 2016, even more Colombian land was under cultivation.
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Pardo explains that the growth can be explained by several factors such as the decision by the government to stop using aerial spraying of glyphosate, but suggests that what has generated the greatest growth in coca cultivation is the devaluation of the Colombian peso against the dollar, since this has dramatically increased the profit margins for drug traffickers.
He also acknowledged that as long as there is coca cultivation, there will continue to be violence, so he deems the issue a top priority for Colombia. He also said that the dynamics of the market is changing, since the United States is decreasing its coca consumption, while Colombia continues to increase production. Pardo suggests that this implies that other countries are increasing their consumption, alongside the possibility that Colombian domestic consumption has increased.
Finally, Minister Pardo discussed strategies for eradication and crop substitution. Pardo addressed the difficulty of meeting the goal of eradicating 20,000 hectares during the past year, since only 18,000 were destroyed. He furthermore announced more investment in both economic and human resources during the coming year.
Economists and politicians have often criticized the drug war as expensive and ineffective, noting that drug use has largely failed to decline since its inception.
In addition, Pardo noted that efforts will be made to continue working on the crop substitution plan, which consists of incentivizing farmers to grow other crops so that they can survive economically during a transitional period.
Under the auspices of this plan, Colombia peasants are expected to cultivate high-income crops such as cacao that will enable them to maintain their current incomes. However, the farmers face a problem during the transitional period in that the sale of their current coca products is both guaranteed, and financed, by drug traffickers, providing them with an economic safety net.
The Colombian government faces a difficult road ahead to achieve results through its crop substitution and coca eradication plans.
Source: W Radio