Global cocaine production sees ‘dramatic’ increase, says UNODC

Worldwide production of cocaine has ‘jumped dramatically’ in the last two years following an initial slowdown as a result of the COVID pandemic, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Coca cultivation increased by 35 per cent between 2020 and 2021, says UNODC’s Global report on cocaine 2023. 

Coca bush cultivation
Coca bush cultivation is concentrated in the Americas, but there is strong potential for it to expand in Asia and Africa.

The increase is the result of an expansion in coca bush cultivation combined with improvements in the process of converting coca into cocaine hydrochloride, the document states, matched by a ‘swelling’ of demand. The rise in coca cultivation is the sharpest since 2016, it adds. While the cocaine market remains concentrated in the Americas and some parts of Europe, there is ‘strong potential’ for it to expand in Asia and Africa, and the report documents the emergence of new trafficking hubs in West and Central Africa, as well as South Eastern Europe. 

The use of violence by criminal networks in Europe is also a ‘growing concern’ the report states, with a spike in serious incidents related to drug markets in recent years. These include ‘public shootings, bombings, kidnappings and torture’, and are partly the result of European cocaine markets attracting new trafficking organisations. According to some analysts, competition between criminal groups from the Balkans that has been driving targeted killings in Montenegro, Serbia, and Albania since around 2015 has now spilled over into other countries, the document says, with assassinations reported in Austria, Germany, Spain and elsewhere. Rivalry between multiple trafficking organisations in the Netherlands, meanwhile – including from Morocco – has led to a spate of assassinations and the discovery of shipping containers that had been converted into torture chambers

‘The surge in the global cocaine supply should put all of us on high alert,” said UNODC executive director Ghada Waly. ‘The potential for the cocaine market to expand in Africa and Asia is a dangerous reality. I urge governments and others to closely examine the report’s findings to determine how this transnational threat can be met with transnational responses based on awareness raising, prevention, and international and regional cooperation.’

Document at

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