Be informed. Be challenged. Be inspired.

Colombia’s potential cocaine production at record high, UN says

Bogota, Colombia

Potential production of cocaine in Colombia and the area sown with coca, the drug’s base ingredient, rose last year to their highest levels in two decades of monitoring, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said on Thursday.

Possible output rose 14 per cent to 1,400 metric tons and the area sown with coca shot up 43 per cent to 204,000 hectares, the UNODC said in an annual report.

Colombia Turbo seized cocaine

A member of the Colombian navy stands guard along with 5.2 tons of cocaine that were seized in Turbo, Colombia, on 6th March, 2018. PICTURE: Colombian Defense Ministry/Handout via Reuters

Despite decades of anti-narcotics efforts, Colombia remains a top producer of cocaine and its government comes under constant pressure from major ally the United States to reduce output.

New leftist President Gustavo Petro, who has called the war on drugs “irrational,” has proposed regulating narcotics, expanding voluntary crop substitution programs, focusing enforcement on drug gang leadership and increasing social funding in production areas.

“This is the highest figures in our 22 years of monitoring,” UNODC Andean and Southern Cone regional director Candice Welsh told journalists, urging the government to improve security conditions for communities transitioning to legal economies and increase social spending.

The uptick in the area planted with cocaine was the first in three years, though potential production has continued to rise.

“We had an increase in sown hectares and cocaine production that are without precedent in the history of the country,” said Justice Minister Nestor Osuna, who added the rise came despite the eradication of some 440,000 hectares of coca in recent years.

“If we want to revert these figures, we need to do something different,” said Osuna, adding that a 2016 peace deal with the FARC rebels which includes crop substitution provisions must be followed. 

Increases in output are due to more productive varieties, better technical assistance and the replanting of coca bushes, the UNODC report said.

Reuters investigations this year showed that Mexican drug cartels which buy much of Colombia’s cocaine are trading high-powered weapons for the crop and are pushing growers to sow more productive varieties.

The UN figures contradict recent numbers published by the US White House, which reported potential cocaine output fell last year to 972 tonnes. The White House estimated a higher area of coca cultivation – some 234,000 hectares.


sight plus logo

Sight+ is a new benefits program we’ve launched to reward people who have supported us with annual donations of $26 or more. To find out more about Sight+ and how you can support the work of Sight, head to our Sight+ page.



We’re interested to find out more about you, our readers, as we improve and expand our coverage and so we’re asking all of our readers to take this survey (it’ll only take a couple of minutes).

To take part in the survey, simply follow this link…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.