Cocaine is a product that is grown as a plant, processed into a drug, exported to different countries, and distributed for individual consumption by cocaine magnates from countries in South America. Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia are considered the trifecta when it comes to top cocaine-producing countries in the world.
The value of exported cocaine is estimated to be about half of the value of the world’s coffee trade. However, when the bulk shipments are distributed on the streets to individual users, the price of cocaine skyrockets by more than 300 percent.
While Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia are the top cocaine producers in the world, most of the countries in South and Central America, including the Caribbean nations, are actively involved in the transshipment of the drug and as financial centers of the world’s cocaine trade. From the thousands of families who grow coca leaves up to the drug barons that direct the production, the cocaine trade wields enormous economic, political, and social influence on the whole of Latin America. Cocaine money invariably enters the pockets of government officials, from the police offers on the street to high profile leaders. It also fuels people in the private sector, from the simple street dealer to the heads of sophisticated banking systems. The monetary exchange rate in many countries in Latin America fluctuates in accordance with the state of the cocaine trade.
Coca cultivation in Colombia increased by 134% between 2013-2016, and that increase continues. The land area in Colombia devoted to the cultivation of coca leaves grew from under 90,000 hectares in 2013 to over 100,000 the following year. In terms of drug production in this same time frame, cocaine output increased by 60,000 tons. By conservative standards, cocaine yields reach nearly 250 tons per year in Colombia.
Peru has about 50,000 hectares of land monopolized by coca production while Bolivia has about 25,000 hectares. Why so much coca production in Columbia? The surge has been linked to a number of factors. For one, some people left cocaine production to mine for gold, but now that gold prices have fallen, laborers have circled back to coca farming. Another factor is that the government’s program to destroy coca farms has been scaled back. And finally, FARC guerillas have assumed greater control of coca farming and ramped up production.