LIMA (Reuters) - Destruction of the Peruvian Amazon is rising after expanding over more than 145,000 hectares (560 square miles) last year - an 80 percent jump from the start of the century, the government said on Tuesday. Forest is mainly being cleared for farming, said Gustavo Suarez de Freitas, an official in the environment ministry. Peru lost an average 113,000 hectares of forest per year since 2001, when 80,000 hectares were destroyed, he added, citing satellite data. "The trend is that deforestation is increasing," Suarez de Freitas told reporters at U.N. climate change talks held in Lima this month. Peru controls about 13 percent of the carbon-rich Amazon. Its deforestation levels are low compared with neighboring Brazil, where 3,360 square miles of rainforest disappeared last year. But forest loss in Peru will likely continue to expand through 2017, according to preliminary data from the agriculture ministry. "The country must make a strong push to tackle growing deforestation," Suarez de Freitas said. "We have to be very careful about deciding what we will accept for forest loss." Illegal logging is rampant in Peru. In September, four indigenous leaders opposed to logging on their ancestral lands were murdered - triggering criticism of scant policing in remote jungle areas. The government of President Ollanta Humala is developing new policies to tackle deforestation that will be ready mid-2015, said Suarez de Freitas. One measure will aim to preserve 633,000 hectares of forest for 68 native communities. (Reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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