“The Rise of the Global Cocaine Supply should put us all on high alertUNODC said CEO Ghada Waly. “The potential for the cocaine market to expanding in Africa and Asia is a dangerous reality.”

Sky-high supply and demand

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

To answer in the best way, Ms. Waly urged the governments and others to carefully review the report’s findings to determine how this transnational threatcan be met by transnational responses based on increased awareness, prevention and international and regional cooperation.

Intrusion into Africa and Asia

The report describes how Coca cultivation increased by 35 percent from 2020 to 2021, a record high level and the sharpest year-on-year increase since 2016.

The increase is a result of both an expansion of coca bush cultivation and improvements in the process of converting the coca bush into cocaine hydrochloride, the drug that is then sold on the street.

The supply increase matches one strong growth in demand, with many regions showing a steady increase in cocaine users over the past decade. While the cocaine market is still fairly concentrated in America and parts of Europe, the report warns that there is a strong potential for major expansion in Africa and Asia.

The report investigates the emergence of new hubs for cocaine trafficking, noting that countries in southeastern Europe and Africa—particularly those in West and Central Africa – is increasingly used as important transit zones for the drug.

Harbors on the North Sea which Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg meanwhile have eclipsed traditional entry points in Spain and Portugal, for cocaine arriving in Western Europe. Traffickers are also diversifying their routes in Central America by sending more and more cocaine to Europe, in addition to North America.

Record high attacks

Arrests and seizures have also skyrocketed. Interception of cocaine shipments by law enforcement agencies around the world recorded seizures that reached a record high of nearly 2,000 tonnes in 2021.

The report shows a criminal landscape divided into countless human trafficking networks. Examine these groups’ modalities, the report found new traffickers filling gaps and a series of so-called “service providers” lending supply chain services “for a fee”.

For example, the demobilization of fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which had previously controlled many of Colombias coca-growing regions, created an opening for others to enter. This includes new, local actors, former FARC fighters and foreign groups from Mexico and Europeshowed the report.

Track trends

Angela Me, head of the UNODC Research and Analysis Branch, said the report includes a amount of more information about the phenomenon.

“With its the latest knowledge and trends on routes, modalities and networks employed by criminal actors,” she said, “it is my hope that the report will support evidence-based strategies which is ahead of future developments in cocaine production, trafficking and use.”

Me told UN News in an interview before the report was launched that dealing with the increased demand for cocaine was a major international challenge, so rethinking how countries could work together to tackle the problem was much needed.

“The evidence shows that the cocaine problem is one transnational transatlantic transcontinental problem,” she told us.

Listen below to our full in-depth interview: