A new UN report shows that coca production in Colombia has surged to levels not seen in two decades, the AP reports. The report Friday confirms US government findings from March that production is skyrocketing. The culprits are varied and include President Juan Manuel Santos' decision in 2015 to stop using crop-destroying herbicides over health concerns and unintended incentives created by a peace deal with leftist rebels for farmers to grow coca. The amount of land where coca was cultivated last year jumped 52% to 146,000 hectares, the UN said. Potential cocaine production rose 34% to around 866 metric tons.
While the bumper harvest is worrisome, the UN said conditions for a sustained eradication campaign have improved dramatically thanks to last year's peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The rebels had long funded their insurgency by levying taxes on drugs produced and transported in areas they dominate, but as part of the accord to end their half-century war against the state they've committed to helping the government persuade farmers to voluntary eradicate the crops. However the agreement has also provided a perverse incentive for farmers to grow coca. Those growing coca will be awarded subsidies if they agree to renounce the crop and grow products like potatoes and fruit instead. (Read more Colombia stories.)