BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia reduced the area occupied by coca across the country by 7% in 2020, although potential output of cocaine rose 8% to 1,228 metric tons a year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on Wednesday.
Last year, Colombia reduced the area occupied by coca crops - the chief ingredient in cocaine - to 143,000 hectares (353,361 acres), down from 154,000 hectares in 2019, according to the UNODC.
However, potential production of cocaine in 2019 was below 2020 levels at 1,137 metric tons.
Despite the third consecutive year of coca crop reductions, as well as decades fighting drug trafficking, Colombia remains one of the world's foremost cocaine producers and faces constant pressure from the United States to tackle the illicit industry.
The increase in production was due to sowing more productive varieties of coca, agricultural technical assistance, and replanting crops, UNODC representative Pierre Lapaque said during a presentation of yearly monitoring statistics.
Drug trafficking has long fueled Colombia's internal armed conflict, which has left more than 260,000 dead and millions displaced, according to the government.
"The greatest enemy of peace building in Colombia is drug trafficking," President Ivan Duque said at the presentation, adding his government has reduced the area of coca cultivations by 20%.
Colombian security forces destroyed 130,000 hectares (321,230 acres) of coca crops in 2020 and confiscated 505 metric tons of cocaine. This year the country hopes to destroy the same number of hectares of coca crops.
The government is working to restart aerial spraying of coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate, which is opposed by environmental groups and local communities.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)