Worldwide cocaine production reaches record level, UN report finds

Cocaine production has increased in recent years, with Colombia the largest producer of the drug worldwide  (PA Archive)
Cocaine production has increased in recent years, with Colombia the largest producer of the drug worldwide (PA Archive)

Worldwide cocaine production has reached a record high, with the United Nations estimating it rose by 35 per cent from 2020 to 2021.

The UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime said new markets had emerged in West and Central Africa, with traffickers more likely to use postal services for the trade.

The office’s global report on cocaine read: “Globally, the use of parcel and courier services increased significantly during the Covid-related lockdown due to restrictions on passenger flights.”

It added in West Africa “[there are] well-established, globally operating postal services as well as smaller shopping companies” involved in the operation.

Cocaine is most likely to be exported to Europe and North America, which were found to be the largest markets for the drug. The UK, Belgium, France and Spain were all found to be among European countries where there was an upwards trend.

The UN added that markets for cocaine consumption in Asia and Africa were “still limited” but warned that their influence could increase.

Colombia is the largest producer of the drug worldwide, while criminal groups from Mexico and the Balkans have also played a part in its increased production.

The report said Covid-19 had a “disruptive effect on markets,” which began to regroup afterwards.

It read: “With international travel severely curtailed, producers struggled to get their product to market. Night clubs and bars ramped up their attempts to control the virus, causing demand to slump for drugs like cocaine that are often associated with those settings.”

It added: “However, the most recent data suggests this slump has had little impact on longer-term trends. The global supply of cocaine is at record levels.”

Almost 2,000 tonnes of cocaine was produced in 2020. This continued a “dramatic” uptick in manufacturing that began in 2014 — when creation was more than half of today’s levels.

The UN has put this down to an expansion in coca bush cultivation. This doubled between 2013 and 2017, hit a peak in 2018, and rose sharply again in 2021.

“But it is also due to improvements in the process of conversion from coca bush to cocaine hydrochloride,” the statement added.