Cocaine production and trafficking continue to increase due to the easing of containment measures against covid-19, which in 2021 made it possible to move the drug reserves -of greater purity- that accumulated the previous year, warns a UN report published this Thursday.
“The marked increase in the illicit production and trafficking of cocaine is especially worrying,” says the report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a UN body in charge of ensuring compliance with drug treaties.
In addition, remember that there is also more availability of high-purity cocaine, which “poses a growing threat to public health.”
The INCB indicates that there are experts who consider that with the relaxation of the measures against the pandemic, “traffickers have moved the stocks that had been accumulating after the implementation of said restrictions.”
Although there is no precise data on the amount of cocaine seized in 2021, the report indicates that only the shipments intercepted by the United States Customs office grew by almost 70% that year, to 40 tons.
Likewise, it is indicated that preliminary data in several European countries in 2021 show that the record of 215 tons was broken again in 2020, up to 240 last year.
In Europe, the largest consignments of cocaine were located on cargo ships, in the Belgian ports of Antwerp and the Dutch ports of Rotterdam.
Still, the INCB notes that caches have been seized elsewhere in Europe, which may indicate that traffickers are testing entry points where controls are not as stringent.
In fact, the sea route, the main one used by traffickers for years, grew in 2021. That year, the cocaine seized on these routes represented 89% of the world total, compared to 78% in 2020.
Then, transport by private aircraft from Latin America was intensified to circumvent the restrictions related to the pandemic.
There were also significant seizures in South America, such as the 15 tons in Venezuela, the highest amount in fifteen years, or the 20 tons in Bolivia, an increase of 26% compared to 2020.
Other increases in confiscated drugs were registered in Panama, Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic, transit countries en route from coca leaf cultivation centers in Peru, Colombia and Bolivia to the United States.
The INCB notes that the supply chain has become more diversified and efficient, resulting in “increased supply, purer product and lower prices.”
In fact, the report recalls that the degree of purity of cocaine in Europe has increased by 40% in the last ten years.
The report collects production data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that shows that the global illicit cultivation of the coca bush increased by 50% between 2015 and 2020, when it reached 234,200 hectares.
Cocaine production doubled between those two years, to almost 2,000 tons in 2020.
Colombia, with 143,000 hectares, continued to be the main producer of coca leaf, followed by Peru (61,800) and Bolivia (29,400), says the INCB.