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Colombia: We’re No. 2! (in coca production)

BOGOTA, Colombia — There’s good news for Colombia in the war on the drugs — and bad news for Peru.

The United Nations has released new figures showing Peru now produces more coca leaves, the raw material for cocaine, than Colombia which for the past decade had been the No. 1 producer.

Colombian drug farmers cultivated 103,000 tons of coca leaf last year compared to 119,000 tons for Peru, which takes over first place. Bolivia was the No. 3 producer.

Peru was the world leader until 1997 when, with the help of drug-trafficking guerrillas, coca cultivation exploded in southern Colombia.

These frustrating, cross-border shifts are known as “the balloon effect” — referring to how a balloon squeezed in one spot will bulge out elsewhere. In this case, vigorous anti-drug policies in Colombia appear to have pushed coca production back into Peru.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter where drug plantations are located. Last year, Colombian, Peruvian and Bolivian coca leaves were turned into between 841 and 1,111 metric tons of powder cocaine, according to U.N. estimates. And that’s more than enough for the world’s drug users.