Production and Distribution
||Most coca is grown in Peru, Bolvia and Columbia.
The farmers, for whom it is a relatively well-paying crop, harvest and dry the
leaves, which are then processed into coca paste. Cocaine base is extracted
from the paste in informal laboratories, usually in Peru or Bolivia. Further
processing continues in Colombia (mainly in the two cities shown on the map), where the white powder, cocaine
hydrochloride, is produced for export. Columbia alone is currently the
source of some 80 percent of the world's cocaine! Once in the United States, the cocaine
is cut (diluted) with ingredients such as lactose, and sold or further
processed into crack cocaine.
||Import and production have been controlled by enormously powerful cartels
such as the "Medellín" and "Cali" in Colombia; the highly armed cartels
have infiltrated governments and corrupted officials. They have also been held
responsible for assassinations of public officials. Drug trafficking reached
the highest levels of government and was at least in part responsible for the
U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 and the arrest and subsequent conviction of
Panama's de facto leader, Manuel Noriega.
||Cocaine finds its way to Great Britain mainly through the USA, although
trafficking does occur directly between South America and Europe. The trade
is such a large scale operation now that it is thought every £20 note in
circulation, in the UK has trace amounts of cocaine on them!
Erythroxylon coca is a densely-leafed plant native to the eastern slopes
of the Andes.
It is a small shrubby tree ranging from 12 to 18 feet high in the wild state and kept down to about 6
feet when cultivated. It is grown from seeds and requires moisture and an equable
temperature. Usually a plant will start yielding alkaloids such as cocaine in seventeen months and often
remains productive for over fifty
years. The leaves are gathered three times a year: in March-April, in June, and
The leaves are rich in vitamins, protein, calcium, iron and
fibre. There are many alkaloids in Coca leaves (Cocaine, Annamyl Cocaine,
Truxilline or Cocamine etc.). The cocaine content of the leaves ranges from O.1%
to 0.9%; like the user, it tends to get higher with altitude!
Coca leaves deteriorate very quickly in a damp atmosphere, and for this reason
the alkaloid is extracted from the leaves in South America before exportation.