In the early 20th century coca leaf was produced by the Dutch colonial authorities in Indonesia and by the Japanese administration in Taiwan for pharmaceutical purposes. After the Second World War coca production was once again restricted to the Andean core countries where the plant was first domesticated and where coca leaf is widely used recreationally and as a performance enhancer – Bolivia and Peru.
In the 1990s the aggressive measures against the cocaine trade pushed coca farmers into Colombia, which for a time became the largest producer. Over recent years there have been reductions in coca growth in these production areas.
In Peru, the 2013 national coca crop monitoring survey registered a 17.5% drop in the area under cultivation – from 60,400 to 49,800 ha. In Colombia the area under cultivation remained unchanged at 48,000, but coca production was estimated to have fallen by 14% due to lower yields per hectare. Bolivian production fell from 27, 200 ha in 2011 to 25,300 ha in 2012.
As these reductions are celebrated by drug control agencies, coca production is being reported from countries that have not previously grown the crop. Last year the Ecuadorian military destroyed one and half hectares of coca plants near the Colombian border. Although Venezuela rejects the label of drug producer, 43 drug labs were destroyed in the last year. This week the authorities in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas reported the confiscation of 1,639 coca plants near the Guatemalan border.
As production has decreased in traditional growing areas, demand has remained relatively steady. Production in new areas with weaker surveillance may explain the continued availability of cocaine in traditional markets.