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US sees decline in Colombia coca cultivation

A coca field in southwestern Colombia
A coca field in southwestern Colombia AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

Cultivation of coca -- the plant used to make cocaine -- has been reduced by area in Colombia for the first time since 2012, although it remains extensive, US authorities said Wednesday.

The White House drug control office reported that coca plantings declined slightly in 2018 from the previous year from 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres) to 208,000 hectares (513,000 acres).

"Although coca cultivation in Colombia remained at historically high levels in 2018, it was the first year the crop did not increase since 2012," the office said.

The report also noted a small drop in production of pure cocaine in Colombia in 2018, at 887 tons down from 900 tons in 2017.

The White House said that since assuming office in August 2018, Colombian President Ivan Duque has stepped up counter-drug efforts, eradicating 56 percent more coca a month than his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos.

"In working closely with President Duque, we are seeing Colombia make progress in accomplishing our shared goal of significantly reducing coca cultivation and cocaine production," Jim Carroll, head of the White House office on drug control policy said.

Between 2014 and 2017, deaths from cocaine overdoses rose nearly 160 percent in the United States, and consumption rose 40 percent, according to official statistics.

In those three years, cocaine cultivation in Colombia went from 112,000 hectares in 2014 to 209,000 in 2017 and cocaine production rose from 324 tons to 900 tons.

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