Vienna, Mar 16 (EFE).- Global production of cocaine reached a record high in response to surging demand and increasing involvement of criminal groups, the United Nations said in a report published Thursday.
“The global supply of cocaine is at record levels,” according to the Global Report on Cocaine 2023, which revealed that almost 2,000 tons of cocaine hydrochloride was produced in 2020, more than double that of 2014.
This production is of maximum purity, hence the actual quantity that reaches the market is significantly higher, given that drug traffickers add other substances in it to increase its effects.
Expansion of coca bush cultivation as well as improvements in the process of its transformation to cocaine are responsible for the increase in production.
The report details that coca cultivation shot up by 35 percent between 2020 and 2021, marking the largest year-to-year increase since 2016.
While traditional cocaine markets such as North America and Europe continue to be the most important, the surge in production could signify an expansion in Africa and Asia.
“The surge in the global cocaine supply should put all of us on high alert,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Ghada Waly said.
“The potential for the cocaine market to expand in Africa and Asia is a dangerous reality,” she added.
However, cocaine seizures by law enforcement all over the world have also increased considerably, and reached a record of almost 2,000 tons in 2021.
Large ports on the North Sea like Antwerp, Rotterdam, and Hamburg have replaced Spain and Portugal as most common entry points for cocaine in Western Europe.
In 2021, almost 90 tons of cocaine was intercepted in Antwerp alone, while in Rotterdam the quantity was more than 70 tons.
Traffickers try to send large quantities of cocaine in containers, taking advantage of the massive commercial activity at these ports.
Even though Colombia still dominates routes from South America tol the market in the US, traffickers have diversified their routes in Central America, from where more and more cocaine is transported to Europe.
Some regions like West and Central Africa, as well as southeastern Europe are increasingly important transit zones for the drug.
The report also highlights that criminal activity is imploding, with more and more groups implicated in the business.
The demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which until then controlled many coca-growing regions in the country, opened the door for other groups, both local and foreign, especially those from Mexico and the Balkans.
In Brazil, organized crime points to the involvement of portuguese-speaking African countries like Mozambique, Angola and Cape Verde.
Moreover, the report revealed that so-called “service providers,” or specialized groups that offer services in the supply chain in exchange for a payment or commission, have multiplied.
“These groups range from motorcycle gangs in Belgium to well-connected organized crime groups in Guatemala. Experts believe the practice is widespread throughout South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa,” the report said.
Experts suggest that when smuggling methods and routes converge, the same groups can be implicated in various criminal activities. EFE