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Samantha Felix Samantha Felix

Graphic: Some Context for Peru’s Biggest Ever Cocaine Seizure


How much of a blow does Peru's record haul strike against the illegal market?

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Peru made its biggest ever cocaine seizure last week, weighing in at a whopping 7,700 kg and winning widespread headlines. This week the haul was flown to the capital, Lima, where interior minister Daniel Urresti unveiled it to the public, standing under a banner proclaiming “Historic Blow to Illegal Drug Trafficking.”

How much of a blow to the cocaine market does this seizure represent?

Peru—which is currently thought to be the largest cocaine producer in the world, with Colombia and Bolivia the other big sources—currently has 49,800 hectares of cocaine-producing coca under cultivation, according to the latest UNODC estimate. If, as a 2010 US estimate suggests, Peru produces 6.13 kg of cocaine per hectare, that gives us an annual figure of 305,274 kg. While the numbers are all estimates, that is a lot.

This total is despite a reported sharp reduction in coca cultivation from 60,400 hectares last year, after an expansive eradication effort—paid for with the help of $100 million in US funding in 2013. Then again, some experts say that farmers are learning new methods for planting and growing coca plants that enable the production of more cocaine per hectare—so 305,274 kg could be an underestimate.