Newsbrief: Peruvian Coca on Rise as Country Revamps Coca Eradication Effort 10/4/02

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Despite increasing acreage devoted to the crop in the last two years, Peru's coca eradication program came to a screeching halt earlier this summer in the face of peasant protests (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/249.html#perucoca). But this week Peruvian drug czar Nils Ericsson announced that a revised eradication program was now underway. Ericsson told reporters in Lima on Tuesday that Peru and the US had signed a September 12 agreement to streamline alternative development programs and that the US had agreed to provide $300 million for the program over the next five years.

Under the new voluntary eradication program, launched last week, farmers would be paid $15 per day to uproot their coca crops. It would take about 10 days for a farmer to clear a 2.5 acre field, Ericsson said. The peasant farmers would then be guaranteed an income for the next six months. "They're going to have an income deriving from their job in works that favor the community -- road construction, sanitation works, school building," Ericsson added.

But eradication cannot keep up with cultivation as peasants rocked by low prices for commodities like coffee and fruit turn back to coca, their most reliable cash crop. The area under cultivation last year was somewhere between 84,000 acres (US figure), 115,000 acres (UN figure), and 150,000 acres, according to some Peruvian drug experts. Ericsson told reporters a "conservative estimate" would be about 125,000 acres under cultivation this year. Ericsson said he expects Peru to eradicate about 17,000 acres this year, or less than one-seventh of the crop.

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