Global supply of cocaine hits record levels, UN says

According to a new report from the United Nations, the global supply of cocaine has reached an all-time high.

One of the main drivers of the increased supply is an increase in the cultivation of coca, the plant from which the drug is made, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report released Thursday. Production increased by 35% between 2020 and 2021, the strongest year-on-year increase since 2016, the organization said.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused a brief disruption to drug markets around the world as it reduced international travel and producers struggled to get their products to market, the UNODC said. But that slump had little effect on longer-term trends, the group said, noting that nearly 2,000 tons of cocaine were produced in 2020 — more than double what was produced in 2014.

“The increase in the global cocaine supply should put us all on high alert,” Ghada Waly, executive director of UNODC, said in a statement. Ms Waly said she is particularly concerned about the expansion of the cocaine market in Africa and Asia.

According to the report, North America accounted for 30% of cocaine users in 2020, while Central and South America accounted for 24%. Western and Central Europe accounted for 21% and Africa accounted for 9% of cocaine users that year.

According to the report, countries in southeastern Europe and western and central Africa are new hubs for cocaine trafficking. Ports on the North Sea, such as Antwerp, Belgium, Rotterdam, the Netherlands and Hamburg, Germany, are faster than the usual entry points in Spain and Portugal for cocaine arriving in Western Europe, it said.

Drug traffickers in Central America are also diversifying their routes and sending more cocaine to Europe, the report said.

Last year, the UNODC said Colombia saw a surge in coca cultivation, with the amount of land used to grow coca growing by 43% between 2020 and 2021. Colombia produced 61% of the world’s coca production in 2020, followed by Peru at 26% and Bolivia at 13%, the new report said.

Demand for the drug has also increased in most of the world, the UNODC said Thursday. “While these increases can be partly explained by population growth, there is also a rising prevalence of cocaine use,” it said.

Write to Talal Ansari at

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