A recent report reveals that global cocaine production has reached an all-time high as demand surges following Covid lockdowns.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported a 35% increase in coca cultivation from 2020 to 2021, resulting in record production levels.
Emerging trafficking hubs in Africa
The findings indicate that West and Central Africa have become new hubs for drug trafficking. In addition, traffickers are increasingly utilizing international postal services to deliver drugs to consumers.
During the Covid-related lockdowns, the use of parcel and courier services saw a significant uptick due to restrictions on passenger flights, according to the Global Report on Cocaine.
The report highlights an increase in West African countries employing well-established, global postal services and smaller shipping companies to smuggle cocaine to Europe and beyond.
— Vithusan Rameshwaran (@VithusanRamesh) March 16, 2023
UN’s response to the report
Angela Me, UN’s chief of research and trend, commented on the report, stating that the supply of cocaine has increased in South America as criminal groups have seized control of regions previously managed by Colombia’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
This shift has led to competition among groups, including foreign organizations, resulting in augmented production, according to the UN’s chief of research and trend.
Largest markets for cocaine
The report identifies Europe and North America as the largest markets for cocaine, followed by South and Central America and the Caribbean.
While the markets in Africa and Asia remain relatively limited, the UN’s Ghada Waly warns that the potential for market expansion in these regions poses a dangerous risk.
Check out @UNODC’s 1st Global Report on Cocaine.
The report analyses production trends, supply & demand, local dynamics & global challenges.
Find out about trafficking routes, smuggling methods & groups involved in this illicit market.
— GhadaFathiWaly (@GhadaFathiWaly) March 17, 2023
The surge in production is attributed to both an expansion in coca bush cultivation and improvements in the process of converting cocoa into powdered cocaine.
The Covid-19 pandemic had a disruptive effect on drug markets as international travel was significantly restricted, and demand for cocaine plummeted due to the closure of nightclubs and bars during lockdowns.
However, the report indicates that the slump had little impact on long-term trends, with the global cocaine supply now at record levels.
UK seizures and interceptions
In the United Kingdom, the report notes a substantial increase in cocaine seizures using fast parcel and postal modes. Law enforcement interceptions have also been on the rise, outpacing production growth.
The Global Report on Cocaine has also revealed several other key findings, indicating the evolving trends in the drug trade. Despite the emergence of new paths to Europe, Colombia still dominates the trafficking routes.
The report highlights a sharp fluctuation in cocaine consumption in Australia, with a peak in mid-2020 followed by a 50% decline in the following year. However, in the last few months of 2021, consumption picked up moderately.
Additionally, Mexican and Balkan criminal groups have shifted their focus toward the center of production to gain access to supplies.