According to new data released in a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, between 2020 and 2021, coca cultivation increased by 35%, reaching record levels.
In addition, the report highlighted the emergence of new trafficking hubs in West and Central Africa, as well as increased use of international postal services to deliver drugs to consumers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic had a disruptive effect on drug markets. With international travel severely curtailed, producers struggled to get their product to market,” the report states. “However, the most recent data suggests this slump has had little impact on longer-term trends. The global supply of cocaine is at record levels.”
Moreover, the report attributes growing cocaine production to increases in coca bush cultivation, improvements in the process of conversion from coca leaves to cocaine hydrochloride, and rising demand.
It was determined that Europe and North America are the largest markets for cocaine, followed by South and Central America and the Caribbean.
Currently, Colombia dominates cocaine trafficking routes. The report has also found that the supply of cocaine has increased in South America as criminal groups have taken control of areas previously controlled by the Colombia Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In turn, increases in competition among these groups led to more cocaine production.
Finally, the report determined that globally, the use of parcel and courier services increased significantly during the COVID-19 lockdown due to limited passenger flights. “Independently from the pandemic, international mails services have been playing an increasing role in drug trafficking in Europe, often facilitated by the growth in online shopping,” states the report.
“Interceptions by law enforcement have also been on the rise, at a higher speed than production, meaning that interdiction has contained the growth of the global amount of cocaine available for consumption,” said the report.