Colombia, in first place in the world in terms of cocaine production, set a new record in 2022 in terms of both the amount of white powder that could potentially be produced and the area of ​​coca crops, the UN announced on Monday.

A report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states that cultivation of coca leaves will increase by almost 13% in 2022, reaching 2,300,000 hectares — an unprecedented area.

Already in 2021, coca crops in the country had reached 2,040,000 hectares, an area increased by 43% compared to 2020 and also a record.

Although it acknowledged the slowdown in crop expansion (from 43% to 13%), the UN pointed out that the area under crops in 2022 is the largest it has recorded since it began keeping systematic data on cocaine production in Colombia in 2001.

The production of the drug has also increased significantly in 2022, mainly targeting the US and European markets. It went from 1,400 tons of cocaine hydrochloride to 1,738.

The upward trend has been entrenched since 2014, despite the harsh, militarized methods implemented to combat drug trafficking.

65% of coca crops are concentrated in the provinces of Nariño and Putumayo (south), which border Ecuador, and the province of Norte Santander (northeast), which borders Venezuela.

In the rest of the country, the situation remained “relatively stable,” with a “3% increase in the area where coca is grown,” according to the report.

Of Colombia’s 1,122 municipal units, coca leaf crops are found in 185, according to the UNODC.

Almost half of coca crops (49%) are found in indigenous protected areas (10%), protected forests (15%), Afro-Colombian areas (19%), and national parks (5%).


Colombia remains by far the largest producer of coca leaves on the planet, followed by Peru and Bolivia. While the USA, the historical financier of the so-called war on drugs, is the country with the largest consumption of Colombian cocaine.

The highly alarming new numbers and the trend they indicate, which is not expected to reverse in 2023, have been made public as Social Democrat President Gustavo Petro, the first leftist in Colombia’s history – elected in the summer of 2022 – continues to complain the “failure” of the so-called war on drugs, the policy of total repression implemented by his conservative and liberal predecessors.

At the weekend, during a Latin American summit in Cali (southwest) dedicated to the issue, Mr. Petro repeated this finding along with his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Colombia and Mexico are “the biggest victims” of this endless war, the two heads of state insisted.

“The so-called ‘war on drugs’ policy has failed. It is of no use,” insisted Mr. Petros, stressing that the crackdown only contributed to the enrichment of organized crime and the worsening of violence, without addressing the generative problems, such as consumption in rich countries or poverty in Latin America. , from which drug traffickers benefit.

During the session, which was attended by delegations from around twenty Latin American and Caribbean countries, Mr. López Obrador also called for combating “the causes” that push young people to join the drug cartels: unemployment, low wages, the lack of access to the education system…

Colombia’s government is preparing to adopt a new anti-drug policy in the coming days, focused on dismantling and reducing the influence of organized crime gangs; it wants to achieve maximum seizures.

While it will seek to “simultaneously stimulate the transformation of the regions by promoting legal and alternative economies”, targeting the weakest link “in the production chain”: small growers.

The new policy was drawn up in coordination with “2,700 social leaders and 274 community organisations” in the areas “affected by this scourge”. It is “the first time” that they will become “the protagonists” of the policy that the Colombian state will implement, the government of Mr. Petros emphasized. The aim is to replace 1,000,000 hectares of coca crops with other crops in the next four years, officials said a few days ago.

“We give priority to the fight against the important actors” of drug trafficking, “not against the poor farmers, whose only livelihood is growing coca, because the state did not offer them the possibility to survive by growing legal products”, explained the Colombian Minister of Defense Ivan Velaskes.

Colombian Environment Minister Susana Muhammad estimated during last week’s session that 13% of deforestation is due to illegal crops. Last year, Colombia recorded deforestation of 1,235 square kilometers of forest, an area reduced by 29% from 2021.