World cocaine production has skyrocketed to all-time highs after a small halt due to the covid-19 pandemic, with enormous demand and more and more criminal groups involved, the UN says in a study published this Thursday in Vienna.
"The world supply is at record levels," says the World Cocaine Report 2023, which specifies that almost 2,000 tons of cocaine hydrochloride were produced in 2020, more than double that of 2014.
This production is of the highest purity, so the number that reaches the market is much higher as drug traffickers mix the drug with other substances to increase their profits.
The increase in production is due both to the expansion of coca bush cultivation and to improvements in the transformation process into cocaine.
The report details that coca cultivation shot up 35% between 2020 and 2021, a record figure and the largest year-on-year increase since 2016.
Strong supply growth is accompanied by a steady rise in demand for cocaine. Although the traditional markets for this drug, North America and Europe, remain the most important, the enormous production may allow expansion into Africa and Asia.
"The increase in the global supply of cocaine should put us all on high alert," said the director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ghada Waly, in a statement.
"The potential for the expansion of the cocaine market in Africa and Asia is a dangerous reality," he added.
However, cocaine seizures by law enforcement around the world have also risen sharply, reaching a record high of nearly 2,000 tons in 2021.
In fact, those seizures have increased at a faster rate than production, which means that it has contained the growth of cocaine available for consumption.
Large North Sea ports such as Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg have replaced Spain and Portugal as the most frequent entry points for cocaine into Western Europe.
In Antwerp alone, almost 90 tons of cocaine were seized in 2021, while in Rotterdam there were more than 70 tons.
Drug traffickers try to introduce large amounts of drugs in containers, taking advantage of the enormous commercial activity in these ports.
Although Colombia continues to dominate the routes from South America to the US market, drug traffickers have diversified their routes in Central America, from where more and more cocaine is sent to Europe.
Regions such as West and Central Africa as well as South East Europe are becoming increasingly important as key transit areas for drugs.
The report notes that the criminal landscape is fragmenting and more and more criminal groups are involved in the business.
The demobilization in Colombia of the FARC, which until then controlled many of the coca-growing regions of the country, opened the way for other groups, both local and foreign, especially from Mexico and the Balkans.
In Brazil, organized crime seems to be increasingly targeting Portuguese-speaking African countries, such as Mozambique, Angola and Cape Verde.
In addition, the report reveals that so-called "service providers" have proliferated, that is, specialized groups that provide their services throughout the supply chain in exchange for payment or commission.
"These groups range from motorcycle gangs in Belgium to well-connected organized crime groups in Guatemala. Experts believe this practice is widespread throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Africa," the report said.
Experts argue that when smuggling routes and methods converge, the same groups can become involved in various criminal activities.
According to the criteria of The Trust Project