Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia cocaine production acreage at 'record level'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionColombia's battle with cocaine traffickers

Colombian cocaine production hit record levels in 2017, according to newly released UN statistics.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says production rose about 31% year on year to some 1,400 tonnes, cultivated on 171,000 hectares.

The agency warned production could harm recent peace-building efforts.

Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine, much of which ends up in the US, which is the world's largest consumer.

Gloria María Borrero Restrepo, Colombia's justice minister, reportedly called the data "really very worrying".

How much is being produced?

According to the UNODC report, the coca production acreage in Colombia last year was the highest ever recorded level, increasing by 25,000 hectares from 2016.

The total acreage under coca cultivation was an estimated 17% higher in 2017 than 2016.

The report said the potential production of cocaine had a value of $2.7bn (£2bn) in the local market.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The report says cocaine with a possible local value of $2.7bn had been produced

The UN said the region bordering the Pacific ocean in Colombia was the most intensively cultivated.

On its own, the state of Narino on the frontier with Ecuador has more farmland dedicated to coca than the whole of Peru, which is another large producer.

Eighty per cent of the coca has been grown in the same area for the past 10 years, while crops produce 33% more coca leaf - the main cocaine ingredient - than they did in 2012.

How is it being tackled?

The country has fought for years against cocaine production, with the US providing around $400m annually to assist in Colombia's war on drugs.

Last year, Colombia also signed a $300m agreement with the UN aimed at reducing the production of cocaine by compensating farmers who agree to switch from growing coca to safer crops.

In August, newly elected President Ivan Duque told reporters the government would create a new drug-fighting policy, saying the goal was to have "concrete results" in the next four years.

A scheme to use drones to spray coca crops with herbicide has, however, attracted criticism.

Mr Duque's predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, suspended aerial fumigation using the chemical glyphosate in 2015, following warnings by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the chemical could be linked to cancer.

The country's cocaine trade is still flourishing despite the 2016 peace deal in Colombia, which ended five decades of armed conflict with major rebel group the Farc.

Some blame the government for concentrating too hard on peace, while others said that by going clean the Farc rebels left a vacuum in the trade they once controlled.

More on this story