New cocaine trafficking hubs in Africa
Global cocaine production has reached record levels as demand rebounds following COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, a new report has found.
The United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime said coca cultivation rose by 35 per cent between 2020 and 2021 to record levels.
Findings suggest new hubs for trafficking have emerged in West and Central Africa.
The report also said traffickers were using international postal services more often to get drugs to consumers.
“Globally, the use of parcel and courier services increased significantly during the COVID-related lockdown due to restrictions on passenger flights,” the Global Report on Cocaine report said.
It noted a rise in West African countries in the use of “well established, globally operating postal services as well as smaller shopping companies” used to smuggle quantities of cocaine to Europe and beyond.
Overall, the report found Europe and North America are the largest markets for cocaine, followed by South and Central America and the Caribbean.
While the report said the markets in Africa and Asia were “still limited”, the UN’s Ghada Waly said the potential for the market to expand there was a dangerous reality.
Production increase was the result of an expansion in the cultivation of coca bush, as well as improvements in converting coca into powdered cocaine, the report found.
It added the outbreak of COVID-19 had a “disruptive” effect on drug markets as international travel was severely curtailed.
Demand for cocaine slumped as nightclubs and bars were shut during the pandemic lockdowns.
“However, the most recent data suggests this slump has had little impact on longer-term trends,” the report says. “The global supply of cocaine is at record levels.”
In the UK, the report says there has been a “significant increase” in seizures of cocaine in the “fast parcel and postal modes”.