Falling coca prices contribute to food insecurity in Colombia UN

By Olivier Griffin

BOGOTA (Reuters) – A slump in the price of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, is contributing to food insecurity in Colombia and causing displacement as people leave areas dependent on illicit cultivation, according to an internal presentation of the United Nations as seen by Reuters.

Historically, coca crops have provided better income than legal alternatives for thousands of rural Colombian families, with drug trafficking groups often bearing the costs of transportation, fertilizer and other supplies.

Farmers who grow coca now have no buyers for coca leaves or coca base, causing economic hardship amid high inflation, according to an internal World Food Program (WFP) presentation of the United Nations.

“There is no money to buy food and inflation (in food prices) is on the rise,” the presentation dated June reads.

WFP has confirmed the provenance of the document.

Excess coca supply – including more productive plants and record harvests – is contributing to the collapse, as well as the slow growth of trafficking routes and new coca cultivation in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico , depending on the presentation.

Other reasons for the drop in coca prices include territorial disputes between trafficking groups and imports of the synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States, a major consumer of cocaine, he added.

Some 400,000 families across the country depend on income from coca cultivation, the presentation said, adding that coca markets have been paralyzed in Colombian provinces including Narino, Putumayo and Norte de Santander for three months. at one year.

The government will send 2 million pesos (about $487) each to just over 77,000 families under an existing program to replace illicit crops, said Valerin Saurith, adviser for the zero hunger initiative at the presidency, adding that the government will strive to build a viable economy. options for affected communities in the medium term.

“It’s not just about replacing crops, but the economy,” Saurith said.

Coca prices are currently around 30% of their previous levels, said Elizabeth Dickinson, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Colombia, adding that rural areas were suffering “complete economic collapse” as a result.

A kilo of coca base could previously fetch up to around $975 in Narino, but would now cost around $240 if buyers could be found, Dickinson said, adding that local economies in coca-growing areas – including including shops and other businesses – dependent on crop income.

“It created not just an economic crisis, but frankly a humanitarian crisis,” Dickinson said.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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