UN reports big drop in Peru coca crop

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LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru's coca eradication efforts cut the area under cultivation by 17.5 percent last year, contributing to the South American nation's highest cocaine prices in 15 years, the U.N. announced Wednesday.

The study by the U.N. office on drugs and crime determined that Peru's crop of coca, the raw material for cocaine, was down to 189 square miles (49,800 hectares) after dropping 3.4 percent from 2011 to 2012, the first decrease in seven years.

U.N. figures for 2013 for Colombia and Bolivia have not yet been released. They were the No. 2 and No. 3 cocaine-producing nations the previous year.

More than half Peru's coca crop is grown in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valley, where Shining Path rebels protect and profit from the illegal cocaine trade.

President Ollanta Humala announced this month that his government had delayed plans to forcibly eradicate there. Officials say they are trying to convince growers there to switch voluntarily to legal crops such as coffee or cocoa.

Flavio Mirella, the Peru and Ecuador director for the U.N. agency said the total area removed from coca cultivation would cover about 10,600 football fields.

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