Bogota (AFP) - Cocaine production in Colombia, a top producer, dropped nearly 13 percent last year, despite steady coca leaf agriculture, the United Nations drug watchdog said Thursday.
But the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said use of the stimulant in the South American country, at 2.2 percent of the population, was high compared to regional neighbors.
That rate nearly matched that of the United States, but was double that of Ecuador, and was more than four times higher than in Peru and seven times higher than in Bolivia.
UNODC illegal agriculture chief Leonardo Correa said Colombia's cocaine production decreased from 333 tonnes in 2012 to 290 tonnes in 2013.
The trend is due to a lower yield from coca leaf crops used to produce the drug. The total surface of these crops held steady last year at 48,000 hectares (11,900 acres).
"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 Bogota.
Bo Mathiasen, UNODC representative in Colombia, said the crops were spread across 23 of the country's 32 departments.
The crops were mostly concentrated in the departments of Narino and Putumayo in the south, and Catatumbo in the north -- all traditional bastions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The FARC, the country's main guerrilla group, has been engaged in peace talks with the government since November 2012.
In May, the two sides clinched a deal backing alternative crops, with possible forced eradication when farmers resist the effort.
Between 2011 and 2012, Colombia saw a dramatic 25 percent decline in coca bush cultivation, dropping from an estimated 64,000 hectares to 48,000 hectares, according to UNODC.
It said coca bush cultivation halved between 2007 and 2012.
Coca crops had dropped across Latin America's three producers -- Bolivia, Colombia and Peru -- totaling 133,700 hectares by the end of 2012, according to UNODC.
Mathiasen said region-wide cultivation saw another 10 percent decrease last year, down to 120,800 hectares.
Peru is the biggest coca leaf producer, with 49,800 hectares in 2013, Colombia is second and Bolivia is third, with 23,000 hectares.