Cocaine production

Cocaine production soars: from the coca leaf to the streets of Europe

The ports of Antwerp, in Belgium, and Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, are the new drug entry routes into Europe, replacing Spain and Portugal

Global cocaine production has soared to historic highs, according to a United Nations report. In 2020, two thousand tons of cocaine were produced, more than twice as much as in 2014. And between 2020 and 2021, coca leaf crops increased by 35%. This growth, however, has been accompanied by more seizures, which has limited the availability of cocaine for consumption.

To explain the global growth of cocaine production, we have to start at the beginning: with the countries that grow the raw material, the coca leaf. Between Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia, in 2021 more than 300,000 hectares of “cocalera” plantations were counted. This is equivalent to the area of ​​the metropolitan region of Barcelona.

Crops are concentrated in impoverished rural areas, and it is a profitable outlet for many families

José del Carmen Abril is a “cocalero” from Colombia and he is clear: “Every time a farmer dies planting coca, two more farmers appear.”

From the coca leaf to the white paste, and finally, to cocaine hydrochloride. This industrial process is carried out in drug trafficking laboratories, established mostly in Colombia, Central America, and Mexico.

Processing has improved in recent years, which has sent cocaine production soaring to historic levels. In 2020, more than 2,000 tons of cocaine were produced, twice as much as six years earlier.

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Another reason for the growth, according to the report, is that there are more and more groups involved in drug trafficking, coinciding with the demobilization of the FARC and Colombian paramilitary groups.

Once the manufactured product has been obtained, the cocaine is transported to the markets where there is demand for consumption: the United States and Western Europe. The main routes pass through Central America, and, increasingly, through West and Central Africa.

The UN report also points to the ports of Antwerp, in Belgium, and Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, as the new entry routes for drugs into Europe, replacing Spain and Portugal.

Between Antwerp and Rotterdam, more than 160 tons of cocaine were seized in 2021.

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