http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/colombia-cocaine-production-soars-un/article/469552

Colombia cocaine production soars: UN

Posted Jul 8, 2016 by AFP
Colombia's cocaine production surged by nearly half its previous amount last year, United Nations experts said Friday.
Colombian Anti-Narcotics Police head General Jose Angel Mendoza speaks during the release of the lat...
Colombian Anti-Narcotics Police head General Jose Angel Mendoza speaks during the release of the latest Colombia Coca Survey on July 8, 2016, in Bogota, which reported an increase of almost 40 percent in the coca crop area from 2014 to 2015
Guillermo Legaria, AFP

Colombia's cocaine production surged by nearly half its previous amount last year, United Nations experts said Friday.

The area covered with fields of green coca leaves expanded by 39 percent to 96,000 hectares, said Bo Mathiasen, Colombia representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Colombia's consequent production of cocaine hydrochloride -- a white powder form of the drug -- rose 46 percent to 646 tonnes, Mathiasen told a news conference.

The increase in coca cultivation was partly due to the halting of crop spraying by the authorities to destroy the plants, he said.

Colombia is ranked the largest cocaine producer in the world.

Peru and Bolivia, also big producers, have 60,000 hectares of coca plantations between them, Mathiasen said.

Eduardo Diaz, a top Colombia government anti-drugs official, said coca production had surged again after easing for several years.

Cocaine trafficking has fueled the country's deadly civil war over the past five decades.

The biggest rebel force, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, signed a ceasefire with the government last month.

Both sides hope it will lead to a full peace deal within weeks.

The conflict has drawn in various armed groups and drug gangs over the decades.

"The growers have achieved greater productivity in their crops," Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said on Thursday.

Armed groups linked to the conflict have managed to "organize orchestrated protests against the forced eradication" of coca, he added, saying he hoped the government's efforts to replace and eradicate illegal crops would thrive once a peace deal is signed.