The business fell like many others when people had to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the sale of “crushed” coca leaves, as it is known in Bolivia, also hopes to recover little by little.
The country has been in quarantine for more than two months, although in the last two weeks many people have been resuming their activities because they cannot continue without income.
The business of the bruised or mix of coca leaf with additives does not escape the drop in customers, Gloria Mendoza tells Efe, who lives from it in a market in Santa Cruz, the largest Bolivian city.
Before, he worked from seven in the morning until eleven at night, but the quarantine decreed at the end of March by the coronavirus prohibited people from taking to the streets from noon and the sale decreased by less than half, from selling fifty pounds of coca leaf at just twenty a day.
“There was more income, people could buy all day,” says the saleswoman, who managed to earn a few days the equivalent of about four hundred dollars.
Last week the business was “normalizing a little” because many people began to go out more on the street, although the quarantine is still going on in cities like Santa Cruz, with more than a million and a half inhabitants.
For this reason, Mendoza trusts that his clients will return, from workers to businessmen, to their bags of “crushed” coca leaf, as they like in Santa Cruz, while in other parts of the country, such as La Paz, they chew without additives.
With a hammer blow on a piece of leather, once separated from impurities such as branches and dirt, the leaves of this traditional crop are mixed in small green plastic bags with bicarbonate, the sweetener known as stevia, ground coffee, lye, sweet potato , a powdered juice called yuppie and even a digestive.
Everything to the taste of the consumer, with hints of lemon, mint or cinnamon flavor, and even in chewing gum format.
The price of the bag varies by weight, from the equivalent of about a dollar and a half to almost three dollars.
The consumption of coca leaf with these mixtures was associated with trades such as taxi drivers and truck drivers to resist long hours of work, in addition to workers who make great physical efforts, but their clients are highly varied, defying consequences that it may have for health in certain mixes.
The Bolivian Constitution consecrates the cultivation of coca for traditional, medicinal and cultural uses, while a law establishes a maximum of 22,000 hectares, although by the middle of last year 23,100 had been reached according to the United Nations, and part of it goes to its transformation illegal on cocaine.
Bolivia registers 9,592 infected by COVID-19 and 310 deaths, according to data from the American Johns Hopkins University.