According to a United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report, global cocaine production has hit an all-time high after falling during the coronavirus pandemic. Between 2020 and 2021, cocaine production is up 35%, the strongest annual increase since 2016, the report said.
The report came shortly after a submarine with two dead bodies and nearly three tons of cocaine on board was seized in the Pacific.
The increase is due to a combination of coca plantation expansion and improved cocaine-making techniques, the UNODC report said.
Demand for cocaine around the world has grown over the past decade, and while the main markets remain in the Americas and Europe, there is “strong potential” for expansion in Asia and Africa, according to UNODC.
“The increase in the global cocaine supply should put us all on high alert,” Ghada Waly, executive director of UNODC, said in a statement. “The potential for the cocaine market to expand in Africa and Asia is a dangerous reality. I urge governments and others to carefully examine the findings of the report to determine how to address this transnational threat with transnational responses based on awareness raising, prevention and international and regional cooperation.”
New hubs for cocaine trafficking are emerging in Southeastern Europe and West and Central Africa, according to the report, with North Sea ports such as Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg overtaking traditional gateways to Europe in Spain and Portugal. Traffickers in Central America are also diversifying their routes by sending more cocaine to Europe.
Alongside the surge in cocaine production, interceptions of the drug by law enforcement have also risen to record highs, the report notes, with a record 2,000 tons of cocaine seized in 2021.
“I hope the report will support evidence-based strategies that stay ahead of future developments in cocaine production, trade and use,” Angela Me, head of the Research and Analysis Branch at UNODC, said in a statement.