COLOMBIA NEWS – Cocaine production in Colombia, a top producer, fell nearly 13% last year despite steady coca leaf agriculture, the United Nations’ drug watchdog agency said June 27.

But use of the stimulant in the South American country – at 2.2% of the population – was high compared with regional neighbors, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said.

The Colombian rate nearly matched that of the United States but was double that of Ecuador, and it was more than four times higher than in Peru and seven times higher than in Bolivia.

Colombia’s cocaine production decreased from 333 tons in 2012 to 290 tons in 2013, said Leonardo Correa, chief of UNODC’s illegal agriculture monitoring system.

“The quantity of cocaine that could be produced from these crops decreased, and this decrease was linked to a trend of lower yields,” Correa told reporters in Bogotá.

Bo Mathiasen, UNODC representative in Colombia, said the crops were mostly concentrated in the departments of Nariño and Putumayo in the south, and Catatumbo in the north – all traditional bastions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Between 2011 and 2012, Colombia saw a dramatic 25% decline in coca bush cultivation, dropping from an estimated 64,000 hectares to 48,000 hectares, according to UNODC.

Colombia is second biggest coca leaf producer behind Peru, with 49,800 hectares in 2013. Bolivia is third, with 23,000 hectares.