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UN: Peru's Coca Area Expands for First Time in 5 Years

FILE - Counternarcotics officers walk in a clandestine airstrip strewn with boulders, in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys, or VRAEM, the world's No. 1 coca-growing region, in Junin, Peru, Sept. 19, 2014.

The area planted with coca in Peru expanded 9 percent in 2016, ending a streak of four years of consecutive declines, as global demand for cocaine grows, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on Tuesday.

Peru planted 43,900 hectares with the leaf that is the raw ingredient of cocaine last year, according to UNODC.

The U.N. said in July that lands being used to cultivate coca in Colombia grew 52 percent last year to 146,000 hectares.

Peru and Colombia compete for the title of world's top coca and cocaine producer.

The coca growing area in Bolivia, the world's No. 3 producer, grew 14 percent in 2016, UNODC said.

Seizures of cocaine globally were at historically high levels last year, UNODC representative Kristian Hoelge said at a news conference in Lima.

Most of Peru's coca is grown in a lawless jungle area inhabited by holdout Shining Path rebels, as well as near the tourist region of Cusco.

Bolivia this year passed a bill to nearly double the amount of land that can legally be planted with coca, bringing output to a potential 30,000 tonnes of leaves.