Published: Tuesday 15 October 1996

The government has turned to forcible spraying of defoliant chemicals on coca plants across the country in an attempt to give strength to its anti-drug policy. This has led to strong protests from the Columbian farmers who have tried various methods like blocking the roads to the airstrips in Putumayo, near the Ecuadorian borders, to prevent the spraying from aircrafts.

The government insists that farmers switch to legal crops like yucca, rubber or heart of palm. However, Columbian farmers find coca to be the most profitable compared to other crops. It yields three to four harvests a year and farmers usually use the dried leaves with gasoline, cement and chemicals to produce the coca paste from which cocaine is made. This allows them to make a profit of us $1,100. Whereas legal crops need to be sold only in markets which means trudging several kilometres as there exists only primitive means of transport.

In an effort to make farmers switch to other crops, the government has also planned to offer crop subsidies and technical assistance.

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