Political Crops

Peruvian Farmers Choose Cacao over Coca

Cocaine may be a hell of a drug, but apparently chocolate is better business. Or so it seems in Peru, where farmers who once grew coca are switching their crops to cacao, which is not only a safer, less political crop, but also makes Peruvian farmers eligible to receive U.S. support. Elena Rios, a former coca farmer and current secretary of Peru's Tocache Agroindustrial Cooperative, said, farmers in Peru "used to be known for making cocaine paste, but now we are known for chocolate. No one wants to grow coca in Tocache. Everyone is thinking about chocolate." Peru is the second-largest international producer of cocaine after Colombia, but it is not yet among the top 10 biggest cacao producers, though cacao exports have increased by more than 400 percent in the last decade. Blanca Panizo, of the Alternative Development Program, a U.S. Agency for International Development projects, said, "We are working to identify Peru with chocolate, the way Colombia is identified with coffee."