Colombia to restart aerial fumigation of coca crops – defense minister

Colombia-cocaine burning field

Colombia is advancing towards meeting a court’s requirements that will allow it to renew aerial herbicide spraying of coca crops, the chief ingredient of cocaine, the minister of defense said Monday.

The Andean country, considered one of the world’s foremost cocaine producers, finished 2019 with 154,000 hectares (380,542 acres) of coca crops and a potential cocaine output of 1,137 tonnes a year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Though coca crop size fell 9% in 2019 to the lowest level in six years, the capacity to produce cocaine rose 1.5% due to increased productivity. Colombia faces permanent pressure from the United States, the main destination for cocaine, to reduce crops.

The government of President Ivan Duque is looking to meet various health and environmental requirements demanded by Colombia’s Constitutional Court to re-start aerial spraying with the herbicide glyphosate.

Colombia suspended spraying campaigns in 2015 following a recommendation by the World Health Organization, which warned glyphosate could potentially be cancerous and harmful for health and the environment.

“We are advancing, we have taken all the steps demanded by the Constitutional Court and we are meeting the requirements of the authorities,” Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said in a virtual press conference.

“Restarting the spraying program is fundamental. It is in the best interest of the country and it will allow us to continue making progress much more effectively in the fight against the world drug problem,” he added, without giving an exact date to restart aerial spraying.

Colombia hopes to destroy 130,000 hectares (321,237 acres) of coca by hand in 2020, up 30% on last year, though using aerial fumigation will allow for this target to be significantly exceeded, according to security sources.

As of July 12, Colombia had destroyed some 45,000 hectares (111,197 acres) of coca crops, but the minister assured the target will be met.

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