A slump in world coffee prices has pushed farmers in Peru’s central jungle to rip up their plants and replace them with coca leaf – the raw material used in cocaine.

9 Feb 2021

This countrywide trend has driven coca leaf production close to 55,000 hectares or up to 500 tons of cocaine annually – enough to satisfy annual demand in the United States three times over.

As drug trafficking routes shrank due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the price of coca leaf plummeted to half its previous levels. Although it has slowly recovered, it finished 2020 by 23% lower than a year earlier. But even so, coca offers poor farmers more security than any other crop as demand is constant.

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Our research is a comparative analysis of the coca and cocaine trade in Peru and Bolivia. The aim is to generate productive debates and promote cooperation by linking farmers, policymakers, advocates and scholars in both countries. We have spent months living and working in coca-producing regions, interviewing farmers and talking to them about how they grow and market their crops as well as speaking with agricultural union leaders and local officials.

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