Peru’s coca farmers say they want help too

RIO DE JANEIRO/MEXICO CITY – Countries around the world have spent billions of dollars bailing out businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Peru’s coca farmers, who grow the bushy plant used to make cocaine, say they want help, too.

Prices for coca leaves sold to drug gangs have slumped 70% since Peru went on lockdown last month, according to Julián Pérez Mallqui, the head of a local growers’ organization. He said his members cater to Peru’s tightly regulated legal coca market, but acknowledged some growers sell on the black market. Peruvian officials say more than 90% of the country’s coca crop goes to traffickers who are now struggling to move product.

With the sector in turmoil, Pérez’s group is crafting a plan to ask the government to buy up excess coca inventory.

Peru “has to design clear intervention strategies for coca,” Pérez said. “We’re screwed, just like everyone else in the world.”

A spokesman for Peru’s anti-drugs agency said it may funnel more development aid to hard-hit areas.

The coronavirus outbreak has upended industries across the globe. The international narcotics trade has not been spared. From the cartel badlands along the U.S.-Mexico border and verdant coca fields of the Andes to street dealers in London and Paris, traffickers are grappling with many of the same woes as legitimate businesses, Reuters has found.

On three continents, Reuters spoke with more than two dozen law enforcement officials, narcotics experts, diplomats, and people involved in the illicit trade. They described a business experiencing busted supply chains, delivery delays, disgruntled workers, and millions of customers on lockdown. They also gave a window into the innovation – and opportunism – that are hallmarks of the underworld.

Cecil Mangrum, a narcotics detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, said an informant recently got a call from a Mexican connection offering 25 pounds of methamphetamine for $3,200 a pound. That’s more than triple the going rate from just a few weeks ago, and the highest price that he has seen for the powerful stimulant in his decade on the drugs beat.

Source: REUTERS

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