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Wednesday, July 30

Alternative crops a tough sell in the Peruvian Amazon foothills.

As trafficking rises in Peru, farmers want larger legal market: "In the Aguaytia area, not far from the jungle border with Brazil, the U.S. Agency for International Development has spent more than $1 million on infrastructure projects and is trying to wean farmers to another alternative crop, palm oil, which is widely used for cooking. But it takes roughly two years for the palms to reach productive maturity, and farmers complain they aren't receiving the promised installment payments to get them through the transition. U.S. officials acknowledge delays but say the program is working now." Miami Herald A shorter version of this article was referred to earlier on this weblog, but this is more complete.

The story of alternative crops, in this case palm oil, is dead horse in the Peruvian Amazon. Coca growers have heard the story before but the Peruvian and U.S. governments never follow through. I can remember stories in the early 1980s about palm oil competing with coca, but it never happened. It's not an issue of just growing -- you need transport, loans, markets, wholesale and retail networks to get a new crop going. But somewhere before the goal, Washington changes administration or new priorities arise or the Lima government goes into free fall, and the whole scheme falls apart. Farmers have seen this again and again over the past 50 years and longer.

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