Launch of 2004 Andean Coca Surveys for Bolivia, Colombia and Peru
UNIS Vienna held a press briefing today to launch the 2004 Andean Coca Surveys for Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. César Guedes, Drug Control and Crime Prevention Officer, Latin America and the Caribbean Section, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Anja Korenblik, Programme Management Officer, Research and Analysis Section, UNODC, and Thomas Pietschmann, Research Officer, Research and Analysis Section, UNODC presented the findings of the Surveys to the media. Nasra Hassan, Director UNIS and Spokesperson UNODC chaired and moderated the press briefing.
The main launch took place at a simultaneous event at the European Commission in Brussels, where Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, UNODC and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, European Commission, presented the surveys. Launches are also being held in New York, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.
Ms. Korenblik presented the results of the surveys, saying that the upswings in coca production in Bolivia and Peru account for an overall increase of 3 per cent across the Andean region in 2004. However, she pointed out that coca cultivation in the Andean region on the whole had dropped by 29 per cent since the year 2000, and that the 50 + per cent decrease in cultivation in Colombia remained unchallenged.
In Colombia, cultivation dropped by 7 per cent to 80,000 hectares in 2004; In Bolivia, cultivation increased by 17 per cent, to 27,700 hectares. The increase was mainly in the Chapare region, and this level is still well below the peaks of cultivation in Bolivia during the 1990s. Peru’s coca surface grew by 14 per cent to 50,300 hectares -- approximately the same area of land under cultivation in 1998.
She also said that world cocaine production since 1980 was at its second lowest since 1989, and had dropped 28 per cent since its peak in 1996. Combined, the three countries produce 98 per cent of the world’s coca crop.
Mr. Pietschmann explained the implications of the upswing in production and its impact on global cocaine markets. He pointed to the fact that there has been a trend towards increased cocaine trafficking and consumption in Europe while cocaine use in North America is lower than a decade ago and largely stable. According to school surveys, cocaine use among high-school students in the United States is now 60 per cent less than in the mid 1980s while the life-time prevalance cocaine use among European high-school students doubled over the 1995-2003 period. Nonetheless, life-time prevalence of cocaine use among 15-16 year old students is still twice as high in the US than in Europe.
European countries with above average rates of cocaine use among students include Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy, followed by the Netherlands, Ireland, France and Germany. Prevalence rates in Austria are still slightly below average. However, prevalence rates of cocaine use sharply increased in many European countries over the last decade, including Spain, the UK, Germany and Austria.
Mr. Guedes highlighted UNODC’s activities in the three Andean countries. To put matters in perspective, he said that only 0.09 per cent of arable and forest lands in these countries was under coca cultivation; however, cultivation posed an environmental hazard due to the large tracts of land covered by the rainforest. He referred to donor contributions via UNODC, a total of US$ 70.1 million in the Andean programme, of which the bulk (81 per cent) was focused on sustainable livelihood programmes.
Close to 20,000 families in the Andean region are covered by the sustainable livelihood programmes, promoting products ranging from rubber, coffee, and coca to palm oil and fruits; 44 per cent of UNODC resources devoted to the Andean region are concentrated in Bolivia, on account of the fact that it has the lowest GDP of the three countries ($PPP 2,460 versus $PPP 6,370 in Colombia and $PPP 5,010 in Peru). He said that though convincing farmers to abandon coca farming could be a difficult task, farmers themselves were showing an increased willingness to switch to legitimate crops, even if it meant less money, as they were keen to earn a livelihood within the law.
UNODC data indicated that farmers involved in its alternative livelihood programmes in the Andean region are able to earn more in actual income than counterparts involved in coca cultivation. For example, in Peru, farmers involved in palm oil production had earned three times as much as farmers growing coca. In Colombia, farmers growing specialty coffees had earned 1.5 times more. In Bolivia, efforts to switch coca-growers to forest management were also gaining ground. UNODC’s alternative livelihood programmes across the Andean region now accounted for 206,000 hectares devoted to the cultivation of legitimate crops, as opposed to 158,000 hectares devoted to coca.
The presentations were followed by a question and answer session. In response to a question on why Bolivia had shown an upswing in cultivation, Mr. Pietschmann answered that among other factors, the high coca prices in the country were a cause. However, he emphasized that production in Bolivia, even with the upswing in 2004, was still much below the peak it hit during the 1990s.
The Bolivian Ambassador, who was also present at the briefing, suggested that UNODC do an assessment of the economic, social and other impact on a country where eradication, interdiction, alternative livelihood and other measures are introduced.
The briefing was well attended by 10 media representatives including leading Austrian media (Die Presse, Kurier), Sueddeutsche Zeitung, ABC (Spain), Le Figaro, besides the representatives from permanent missions in Vienna (Austria, Bolivia, Colombia, Japan and Peru).
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