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         

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 in October.

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.



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