BOGOTA, COLOMBIA — Colombian peasants devoted about 27% more land to growing coca last year, the United Nations reported Wednesday, calling the increase a surprise given the intense efforts to eradicate cocaine's raw ingredient.
Estimated cocaine production, however, increased only slightly in Colombia and other Andean nations as cultivation shifted to smaller, less productive plots in more remote locations. About 1,096 tons was produced in 2007, compared with 1,085 tons the year before, according to the U.N.
The net increase in coca acreage came despite record U.S.-backed eradication efforts that disrupted the growing cycle, said national Police Chief Gen. Oscar Naranjo.
"These young crops, the new ones, are less productive, both in the number of leaves and in terms of the potency of the leaf," Naranjo said, and it's more difficult for growers in remote areas to get the chemicals to process the leaves.