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Colombia coca cultivation at 'all-time high', UN warns

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By Alice Tidey
A coca plantation
A coca plantation   -   Copyright  Neil Palmer/CIAT/Flickr

The cultivation of coca crops in Colombia hit an all-time high last year, which could undermine peacebuilding efforts, the UN warned on Tuesday.

The United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said the area under coca cultivation in Colombia — the world's biggest cocaine producer — increased by 17% between 2016 and 2017 to reach 171,000 hectares — the highest figure ever recorded.

The crops — which produce 33% more leaves than in 2012 — have also led to a 31% surge in cocaine production on the year.

The UNODC estimates that the potential production of cocaine has a value of $2.7 billion (€2.3 billion) in the local market.

It warned that the increase in production of the illicit substance could undermine peacebuilding efforts by strengthening armed groups, boosting corruption and weakening the culture of lawfulness.

The Latin America country put an end to its decades-long domestic conflict opposing the FARC guerrilla group — largely funded by cocaine production — and the government in 2016. More than 200,000 people were killed and millions were displaced by the violence.

But the controversial peace deal, which allowed FARC members to escape punishment and enter political life has come under fire with the country's new president, Ivan Duque, vowing to alter it.