Cultivation of coca — the base ingredient of cocaine — surged 39% in Colombia in 2014, which was followed by a 42% increase the next year.

In 2016, that production saw another significant increase, rising a little over 13%, from 392,897.5 acres to about 444,800 acres, or about 695 square miles, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

The latest cultivation estimate is derived from satellite imagery gathered by the US and indicates that farmers around the country have been growing more of the plant.

“If that’s accurate, it’s 180,000 hectares of coca, up from 159,000 in 2015,” Adam Isacson, senior associate for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America, wrote on Twitter on Monday. “A 13% increase is less than I expected: it rose 42% from 2014-15.”

The 2016 figure would, however, indicate more than double the acreage planted at its lowest point in 2012, when cultivation covered 301 square miles, down from 656 square miles in 2001.

On the ground in Colombia, coca cultivation has been facilitated by reduced eradication efforts and driven by producers and traffickers who see an opportunity amid the government’s peace-deal talks with left-wing rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which concluded in November and is now in the process of being implemented.


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