Cocaine is expected to overtake oil to become Colombia’s largest export this year, as narcotics producers ramp up operations amid the introduction of more lenient policies governing production of the drug, according to a Bloomberg analysis Economics.
“We estimate that revenues from cocaine exports jumped to $18.2 billion in 2022 – not far behind oil exports of $19.1 billion last year. » said Bloomberg economist Felipe Hernández in a report released Thursday. “The government is destroying the laboratories where coca leaves are transformed into cocaine, but this has not stopped production from expanding. » Hernandez added.
Cocaine exports from the South American country exceeded 1,700 tonnes last year, Bloomberg reported, almost double the 970 tonnes the year before. Oil exports, meanwhile, fell by 30% in the first half of 2023.
The planned boom in cocaine production in Colombia comes amid a policy shift imposed by the country’s president, Gustavo Petro, who has called on anti-drug authorities to pursue major drug lords who make the drug trafficking abroad rather than coca leaf producers.
Petro has also expressed a desire to enter into negotiations with Colombia’s main cocaine exporters as part of an attempt to reduce drug-related violence.
According to a report released this week by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an unintended consequence of Petro’s policy change was a 13 percent increase in land used to grow coca plants – the leaves of which are transformed into cocaine. Harvesting or growing coca plants is illegal in Colombia.
The UN report also states that around 230,000 hectares (570,000 acres) of Colombian land is used to harvest coca plants. The increase in available harvests has been accompanied by an increase in production, Hernandez added to Bloomberg.
In August, a shipment of 9.5 tonnes of cocaine coming from Ecuador, a country bordering Colombia, was intercepted by Spanish authorities. Evidence from the seized shipment, which was disguised as a delivery of frozen bananas, indicated that the drugs were intended for distribution to 30 European drug networks.
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