Facebook Twitter

LOW COFFEE PRICES PROMPTING PERUVIAN FARMERS TO GROW COCA

SHARE LOW COFFEE PRICES PROMPTING PERUVIAN FARMERS TO GROW COCA

Peruvian coffee growers this year converted nearly 40 percent of their land to grow coca leaves, the raw ingredient in cocaine, according to a representative of the country's coffee growers.

Juan Iglesias, president of the Cooperative of Peruvian Coffee Growers, said Friday the farmers "are going through their worst crisis in history" because of low prices in the world market.Iglesias, who represents about 20,000 families that grow coffee beans, has asked the government to pay his group $3 million to make up for a contract the Peruvian government lost last year with the Soviet Union.

"We need the money to sustain us through the next harvest and to avoid increasing the cultivation of coca leaves," Iglesias said.

Peru is the world's leading producer of coca, which is processed into cocaine for export.

Iglesias said coffee growers are tempted to switch crops in part because coca plants mature faster than coffee, yielding more produce each year.

It takes three years to grow coffee plants, and the beans are later harvested annually from mature plants.

Coca plants, on the other hand, take eight months to grow and the leaves are then harvested every three months, Iglesias said.

Geronimo Porras, president of the Federation of Coffee Growers in the central Amazon jungle, said that "the government practically pushes us into growing coca by not buying our crops and by maintaining export controls and taxes."

He said the subsequent money problems of coffee growers make transportation difficult, bank credit scarce and put the high prices of fertilizers and pesticides out of reach.