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April 2006
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The ONDCP attempts to put a good face on Colombia coca estimates

[Note: This is via The Drug Update — a new site to me that could be a good resource. The Drug Update is developing a drug policy news aggregator. I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.]
Check out the opening of the Drug Czar’s report:

This year we are reporting mixed results for the U.S. government’s just concluded annual survey of coca cultivation in Colombia.

  1. Coca cultivation declined by 8 percent, from 114,100 to 105,400 hectares, when those areas surveyed by the US government in 2004 were compared with the same areas in 2005
  2. Nevertheless, the survey also found 144,000 hectares of coca under cultivation in 2005 in a search area that was 81 percent larger than that used in 2004. The potential production for the 144,000 hectares of coca found by this year’s survey is 545 metric tons of pure cocaine

In an effort to improve the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the estimate, this year’s survey expanded by 81 percent the size of the landmass that was imaged and sampled for coca cultivation. The newly imaged areas show about 39,000 additional hectares of coca. Because these areas were not previously surveyed, it is impossible to determine for how long they have been under coca cultivation. Because of this uncertainty and the significantly expanded survey area, a direct year-to-year comparison is not possible. The higher cultivation figure in this year’s estimate does not necessarily mean that coca cultivation increased in the last year; but rather reflects an improved understanding of where coca is now growing in Colombia.

Translation: There was an increase in cultivation from last year to this year, but it doesn’t really count, because we didn’t look in some of those places last year.
So here’s what the report should read.

  1. Cultivation that we’re aware of increased by 26% from 114,100 hectares to 144,400 hectares from 2004 to 2005.
  2. In areas where we already knew there was cultivation, we were only able to reduce cultivation by 8%.
  3. Despite spraying 139,400 hectares of coca this year, we were only able to reduce cultivation in sprayed areas by 10%, and in areas where we haven’t sprayed, cultivation has increased by 12%, showing that we have no ability to keep up with cultivation despite all the effort and money.

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