Dramatic Surge In Cocaine Trafficking After Covid Era Slowdown

Routed through new hubs and expanded criminal networks, international cocaine trafficking has made a dramatic surge after an initial slowdown caused by the emergence of Covid-19, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report.

Criminal networks are now diversifying with alarming results alongside record levels of production, moving beyond the pandemic and its related global shutdown, which had appeared to have temporarily hobbled the illicit trade, UNODC said in its Global Report on Cocaine 2023.

“The surge in the global cocaine supply should put all of us on high alert,” UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly said. The potential for the cocaine market to expand in Africa and Asia is a dangerous reality, according to her.

She urged governments and others to closely examine the report’s findings to determine how this transnational threat can be met with responses based on awareness raising, prevention, and international and regional cooperation.

The report says coca cultivation soared 35 per cent from 2020 to 2021, a record high and the sharpest year-to-year increase since 2016.

The rise is a result of both an expansion in coca bush cultivation and improvements in the process of converting coca bush to cocaine hydrochloride, the drug which is then sold on the streets.

Many regions show a steady rise in cocaine users over the past decade. While the cocaine market remains concentrated in the Americas and parts of Europe, the report warns that there is a strong potential for a large expansion in Africa and Asia.

The report examines the emergence of new hubs for cocaine trafficking, noting that countries in Southeastern Europe and Africa – particularly those in West and Central Africa – are increasingly being used as key transit zones for the drug.

Arrests and seizures related to cocaine trafficking have also skyrocketed. A record high of nearly 2,000 tons of cocaine shipments have been seized by law enforcement around the world in 2021, the report said.

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