February 23, 2010 / 8:50 PM / 9 years ago

Peru may overtake Colombia in cocaine output: U.N.

A police officer walks between bags containing cocaine before a drug incineration operation in Lima December 18, 2008. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Peru could overtake Colombia as the world’s biggest cocaine producer if its eradication policies keep lagging, a U.N. body said on Tuesday.

The International Narcotics Control Board said in its annual report that coca bush cultivation in South America decreased in 2008 to 167,600 hectares, an 8 percent drop from the previous year.

Of that total, Colombia’s cultivation area accounted for 48.3 percent, followed by Peru with 33.5 percent. But Colombia’s area was declining, while Peru’s was growing.

“If the republic of Peru does not take more aggressive methods to destroy and control coca-growing, it could be the biggest cocaine producer among the Andean nations in the next five to ten years,” board member Camilo Uribe said at a presentation of the report in Bogota.

According to the U.N. body, Colombia produced 430 tons of cocaine in 2008, while Peru produced 302 tons. Bolivia is the third biggest cocaine producer in South America.

Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne, Editing by Stacey Joyce

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