TUMACO - Colombia beat its record for eradicating coca crops for the second year in a row, the government said Wednesday, although the country still remains the world's leading producer of cocaine.
"We have achieved the highest level of manual coca eradication ever recorded by Colombia: 130,000 hectares (321,000 acres)," President Ivan Duque said in a statement to the press.
That area, roughly the same size as the city of Los Angeles, exceeds the last record set in 2019, when the government got rid of 94,000 hectares of coca, the main ingredient of cocaine.
In 2019, 1,137 tons of cocaine were produced in Colombia, a number slightly higher than the previous year, the UN reported. Figures for 2020 are still not available.
Duque said his country also set other "historic records" in 2020, such as 498 tons of cocaine seized and 5,447 laboratories destroyed.
Since taking office in August 2018, Duque's conservative government has prioritized fighting drug trafficking and also launched a plan meant to cut the land area of coca cultivation in half between 2022 and 2023.
Although Duque says he has reached targets set thus far, total surface area of coca eradication has only decreased by 9 percent, according to the UN.
Experts estimate that replanting replenishes nearly 50 percent of the amount of crop taken out of production.
Duque also plans to resume the practice of aerial spraying using the herbicide glyphosate, an initiative applauded by the United States under outgoing President Donald Trump, who has deployed soldiers to Colombia to support the fight against drug trafficking.
Former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos ended glyphosate spraying in 2015 after the World Health Organization said it was "probably carcinogenic."
Despite 4 decades of concerted efforts fighting drug trafficking, Colombia is still the world's leading cocaine producer, making about 70 percent of the global supply. The United States as the leading consumer.
The government also accuses armed groups, financed by drug trafficking, of being responsible for the worst wave of violence the country has seen since signing a peace deal with the country's Marxist FARC guerrillas in 2016.
FROM THE ARCHIVES