Effective Cropcontrol Strategies

Many believe the illicit-drug trade is most susceptible to disruption at the organizational center of gravity—the traffickers' home country of production. Once the product leaves the production area and enters the distribution networks, it becomes more difficult to locate and control. Consequently, the U.S. government's drug-supply reduction programs have historically focused major attention on the drug source, which represents the smallest, most localized point in the grower-to-user chain.

International supply-reduction efforts close to the source of the drug also complement domestic supply-and-demand reduction efforts and give them a better chance of success. The U.S. 1991 National Drug Control Strategy states that when it is judged to be feasible politically, particularly when the market price of the raw product has been depressed below the cost of production, cooperative efforts can and should be taken to reduce the net cultivation of the NARCOTIC crops. Such crop control, or eradication, would then occur through manual or herbicidal means, crop substitution, income replacement, and area-development projects that provide income and raise the standard of living. Additionally, efforts would be made to convince the cultivators to plough under or cut down their drug crops voluntarily or not to plant them in the first place.

A Mexican federal policeman prepares to get off a helicopter as it lands near a large marijuana field slated for destruction in Mocorito, Sinaloa, Mexico, August 28, 1995. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

Crop-control strategies are important for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana reduction, although neither the United States nor the source governments have much control over, or much access to, the largest opium-producing reigons of Southwest Asia (the Middle East) and Southeast Asia (especially Myanmar [formerly Burma] and Afghanistan, the world's largest producers of illicit opium). The Peruvian government has exercised only limited sovereignty over the world's largest area of coca cultivation (for cocaine), the insurgent-controlled Upper Huallaga Valley (UHV). When government commitment and ability exists for controlling the source of the illicit product, crop eradication and/or income substitution can be effective ways to achieve a net reduction in the production of the illegal crop.

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