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Just say no: Adios cocaine as cocoa becomes hot in the Amazon

[TOKYO]  Farmers in the Amazon are abandoning cocaine in favor of cocoa as anti-drug trafficking efforts succeed.

Peruvian cocoa production will surge to a record 155,800 metric tons in 2018-19, almost double output five years ago, according to Fitch Solutions. Over 25,000 farms now covering more than 49,000 hectares of crops including cocoa and coffee moved away from the illegal coca crop last year, and over 20,000 hectares of coca have been eradicated this year, the researcher said.

"Government schemes will continue to be the driving force behind accelerated Peruvian cocoa production in the medium term," Fitch said in a Nov. 26 note. The USAgency for International Development is negotiating with coca-growing communities in the Amazon, "encouraging them to switch to licit crops."

The increase in high quality cocoa production has not just helped Peru's international reputation, but has allowed the country to increase exports 10-fold since 2008 to more than 50,000 tons in 2017, mostly to Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and the US, Fitch said.

Still, a new EU regulation that begins in January will limit levels of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal, in chocolate and cocoa powder, the consultant said. Levels of cadmium in most of Peru's growing regions were higher than EU thresholds.

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