Bolivia launches fizzy drink made with coca leaf
Sunday 23 January 2011
Bolivia, which is pushing for the decriminalization of the coca leaf, launched a soft drink made from the plant Tuesday, the second of its kind.
The drink, called "Coca Brynco," was launched at an official ceremony in La Paz, emphasizing support from Evo Morales's government for the venture.
Intended to rival its more famous US cousin Coca Cola, the fizzy drink, much like last year's introduction of Coca Colla, is at the center of a plan from coca growers in the central rural Bolivian province of Chapare to boost coca production.
The drink has been "well received in market research and at tastings," company head Johnny Vargas told state news agency ABI.
La Paz has moved in recent years to expand coca cultivation, with Morales - who also heads the coca growers' union in the Chapare - even bringing attention to the plant when he chewed it at UN meets.
Tea, flour, toothpaste and liquor are already being produced using a coca base.
Bolivia, the world's third largest producer after Colombia and Peru, yielded a coca crop of some 30,500 hectares (75,370 acres) in 2008, an increase of six percent over the previous year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Coca leaves have been cultivated in the Andes mountains for 3,000 years and are part of the culture and identity of the people there, according to Morales, who has said some 10 million people in the Andes chew "sacred" coca leaves.
The International Narcotics Control Board has called for years for a ban on coca leaf chewing.
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