Bolivia to buy up coca crop


Aymara women chew coca leaves in front of the U.S. Embassy to Bolivia on Jan. 26, 2011.


Aizar Raldes

Bolivia feels strongly about its right to grow coca.

And while some coca leaves are turned into wholesome products like coca cookies, Bolivia can't deny that sometimes coca ends up as cocaine.

So the Bolivian government has announced that it will purchase and dispose of almost 10,000 acres of coca.

The idea is to prevent the plant from falling into the hands of cocaine producers, reports the Colombian newspaper El Espectador.

The annual yield of one hectare (about 2.5 acres) of coca ranges between 1,300 and 2,700 kilograms, according to U.N. studies. The price of a kilo of coca leaf on the local market is about $5.

Read more: On a mission to legalize coca

The leaf is chewed all across the Andes. It can provide a caffeine-like boost and is made into natural food products including pasta and cakes. It can also be turned into cocaine.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Bolivia was the largest supplier of coca for cocaine production, according to the State Department. A significant number of peasants migrated to the Chapare region, where coca could be cultivated, at that time.

There are currently 30,900 hectares of coca cultivation in Bolivia, more than half of which are illegal. The government plans to eradicate 10,900 hectares and leave 16,000 hectares to supply the legal uses for the plant. The government will purchase the remaining 4,000 hectares-worth so they're not used for cocaine.

Read more: Bolivia protests for right to grow coca

(h/t InSight Crime)

Hannah McGoldrick contributed to this story. 

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