Colombia is the world’s #1 producer of cocaine, according to both the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United States’ Department of State.
While nobody exactly knows how much coca is cultivated and how much cocaine is produced and subsequently exported, both the UNODC and the US State Department make annual estimations of the size of the illicit industry.
In 2016, Colombia had 146,000 hectares of coca cultivation according to the United Nations, whose method of measuring is considerably more transparent than that of the US.
Coca cultivation in Colombia
Coca is grown across Colombia, but most intensely in areas where there has been a chronic state abandonment, either due to neglect of the state or because of heightened presence by leftist rebel groups like the FARC or ELN who tax coca growers and in some areas buy the leafs to turn them into coca paste.
In its annual report, The UNODC provides relatively accurate maps on where the density of coca crops is highest.
Coca cultivation density in Colombia (2016)
Regional coca cultivation maps
The areas most affected by coca cultivation are the Pacific coast, particularly the Nariño province in the southwest, the southern Putumayo province on the Ecuadorean border, the Catatumbo region on the Venezuelan border and the central Meta and Guaviare provinces.
Coca cultivation on the Caribbean coast and the country’s eastern plans are increasingly less popular for coca growth.
Coca eradication in Colombia
Colombia’s security forces have been fumigating coca since 1994 and manually eradicating crops since 2005, but without much result. According to the United Nations these methods are useless on the long term as farmers and drug trafficking organizations sow new crops once the eradicators are gone and the pesticides stopped working.
The Colombian government has been promoting voluntary crop substitution since May 2017, but this program has been virtually without funds and is violently countered by drug trafficking organizations.