BOGOTA (Reuters) – The area occupied by coca crops in Colombia expanded to 245,000 hectares (605,408 acres) at the end of 2020, and cocaine production capacity rose to 1,010 metric tons a year, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) said on Friday.
At the end of 2019, Colombia counted crops of coca – the chief ingredient in cocaine – across 212,000 hectares, according to an ONDCP report, indicating a 15.5% increase from last year.
Potential cocaine production rose 7.9% from 936 metric tons at the end of 2019, the report said.
“These trends show the need to increase holistic approaches that combine economic development, increased government presence and citizen security, seizures and eradication in key rural areas to sustainably reduce cocaine production and build peace in areas affected by conflict,” it said.
The ONDCP numbers differ significantly from those published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on June 9, which indicated the coca crop area declined 7% to 143,000 hectares, but said potential cocaine output rose 8% to 1,228 metric tons a year.
Despite decades fighting the drug trade, Colombia remains one of the world’s chief producers of cocaine and faces constant pressure from the United States to tackle production.
The ONDCP figures show that the fight against drug trafficking “continues to be an enormous challenge,” the Colombian government said in a statement.
Colombia’s security forces destroyed 133,000 hectares of coca in 2020 and confiscated 505 metric tons of cocaine.
In 2021 the country targets eradicating a similar area of coca crops. The government of President Ivan Duque is pushing to restart aerial spraying crops with the herbicide glyphosate, which is opposed by environmental groups and local communities.
Drug trafficking has long fueled Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has left more than 260,000 dead and millions displaced, according to the government.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)