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Cocaine Market Booming

Cocaine use and production have increased drastically over the past decade. 

Cultivation and production of coca bushes hit an all-time high in 2021 according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The annual World Drug Report came out on Sunday. 

"Although the global cocaine market continues to be concentrated in the Americas and in Western and Central Europe (with very high prevalence also in Australia), in relative terms it appears that the fastest growth, albeit building on very low initial levels, is occurring in developing markets found in Africa, Asia and South-Eastern Europe," the UNODC report said.

An estimated 22 million people used cocaine around the globe. More than 296 million people used drugs in 2021, the most recent year data was available. This is a 23% increase compared to a decade ago in 2011. The report estimates that four-fifths of cocaine users can be found in the Americas and Europe. 

"The world is currently experiencing a prolonged surge in both supply and demand of cocaine, which is now being felt across the globe and is likely to spur the development of new markets beyond the traditional confines," the UNODC report said.

It is expanding well beyond established markets, which were previously contained to North and South America, Europe, as well as parts of Australia. Afghanistan is now in the production market. 

Despite the increase in production, seizures have grown faster. The total supply has been contained to some extent due to the rapid seizures. 

The report states that despite 90% of the methamphetamine seized being in two main regions - East and Southeast Asia and North America- high levels of trafficking increased in the Middle East and West Africa. The drug market in Afghanistan is changing and now many of the drug seizures that took place involved methamphetamine. Afghanistan produces 80% of the world’s opium poppy, which is used to make heroin. 

“Questions remain regarding the linkages between illegal manufacture of heroin and of methamphetamine [in Afghanistan] and whether the two markets will develop in parallel or whether one will substitute the other,” the report added.

Seized drugs have been burned in multiple countries such as Myanmar and Portugal in an attempt to completely rid the country of them. Both countries burned the drugs on Monday to mark the United Nations’ international day against drug abuse and illicit tracking.

Authorities in Myanmar burned more than $446 million worth of illegal drugs. Police in Portugal burned more than six tonnes of cocaine. 

The message against drugs and drug traffickers was clear. 

"There are more drugs circulating, there is more supply from producing countries and also more drugs being seized," Rui Sousa, the head of the anti-drug trafficking unit at Portugal's criminal investigation agency (PJ), told Reuters reporters in Lisbon.

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