According to a report released by the United Nations, there has been a 50% increase in land being used for coca leaf cultivation from 2015 to 2016 in Colombia.
Bo Mathiasen, head of the UN office of drugs and crime stated that this was a very significant increase as the amount of land went up from 96,000 hectares in 2015 up to 146,000 hectares in 2016.
According to the report, the country’s cocaine production also rose from an estimated 649 tons in 2015 to 866 in 2016.
Mathiasen, however, stated that he is optimistic for a reduction in cocaine cultivation after the Colombian government signed a peace treaty with FARC, the largest rebel group in the country which also happens to be in control of a vast majority of the coca leaf producing areas.
The treaty says that the FARC would give control of areas where drugs were produced to the government and encourage farmers to plant other crops by offering them subsidiaries.
Many analysts believe however, that the peace treaty between the government and the FARC has been the cause of the increase, and coca plants no longer being eradicated through spraying.
Another possible reason for the surge in production according to analysts was that farmers began to grow more coca plant knowing that it would result in them receiving more subsidiaries.
The subsidiaries will be $11,000 per farmer over the course of two years.
Head of Colombia’s counter-narcotics police, Jose Angel Mendoza, said that the country was being faced with “a difficult historical moment” but went on to state that the figures mentioned in the UN report reflected the state of the country at the end of 2016.
The Colombian government has put into effect a plan to destroy more than 100,000 hectares currently being used for the cultivation of the coca plant, with half of the hectares to be eradicated by force, and the other half through agreements with farmers regarding coca plant substitution.
The Colombian government has already met 40% of its goal regarding the eradication of the coca plant.
Rodrigo Pardo, head of the government agency in charge of seeing that the peace agreement is followed stated that having the FARC on board with substitution instead of opposed makes a significant difference.
The Colombian government has also seen a rise in cocaine seizures, going up from 253 tons in 2015 to 378 in 2016.
Image of Colombian police walking through a coca plant field from InSight Crime
More details to follow.