Cocaine Production Hits All-Time High, According To UN Report

A record of 2,000 tons of cocaine was produced in 2020, according to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The report showed that although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted drug markets, it has done little to curb the growth of the global cocaine trade in the long term.

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The UNODC attributes the rise in cocaine production to an increase in coca bush cultivation, which doubled between 2013 and 2017, peaked in 2018 and spiked again in 2021. In fact, the production of coca has seen a significant surge of 35% in 2020-’21.

In dialogue with The Guardian, Antoine Vella, a UNODC researcher and one of the authors of the study, said: “The pandemic was a bit of a blip for the expansion of cocaine production, but now it has rebounded and is even higher than what it was before.”

The report also highlighted improvements in the conversion process from coca bush to cocaine hydrochloride, as well as a steady growth in demand for cocaine, with most regions showing a rise in users over the past decade.

“Although these increases can be partly explained by population growth, there is also a rising prevalence of cocaine use,” the document stated.

“Interceptions by law enforcement have also been on the rise, at a higher speed than production, meaning that interdiction has contained the growth of the global amount of cocaine available for consumption.”

According to the report, the prevalence of cocaine use is already high in established markets, which account for only 20% of the world’s population. If the use of cocaine increases in other regions to match the established markets, the number of users globally would significantly rise due to the large underlying population.

“This type of market convergence has already been happening in the case of Western and Central Europe, where purity levels and prices have harmonized with the United States, although the prevalence of cocaine use in Western and Central Europe has not yet reached the level in the United States,” the report added.

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