US: Colombia coca production surges to record levels

PUERTO BELLO, Colombia (AP) — Coca production in Colombia has surged to levels unseen in two decades of U.S. eradication efforts.

A new White House report released Tuesday shows an 18 percent increase from 2015-2016 in the Andean country’s production of the plant used to make cocaine.

An estimated 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres) of Colombian land were planted with coca plants last year.

U.S. officials attribute the skyrocketing coca production to a combination of culprits, including an end to aerial fumigation in 2014 and implementation of a peace agreement with rebels that provides subsidies to coca growers who agree to plant alternative crops.

Production of the leaf began rising in 2013 after years of decline.

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