Lazy eyes listen
According to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, coca production has increased by 35% compared to pre-pandemic levels, as drug cartels take advantage of receding Covid-19 restrictions to smuggle record amounts of the narcotic around the world (UNODC).
The increase in cocaine production is the most significant since 2016, and it coincides with efforts by powerful South American drug cartels to improve the efficiency of drug labs.
“The pandemic was a bit of a blip for the expansion of cocaine production,” UNODC researcher Antoine Vella told The Guardian. He went on to say that it has “rebounded” to levels higher than before Covid-19. According to the report, demand has decreased in recent years due to the closure of many bars and nightclubs during lockdowns.
The findings suggest that during the pandemic, cartels were forced to devise alternative methods of distribution after many international flights were grounded and road traffic was heavily policed, forcing them to stockpile the drug.
Several drug seizures revealed that traffickers attempted to conceal cocaine in everyday items such as avocados and even surgical facemasks. According to officials, in one case, traffickers broke the substance down into fabrics to avoid detection before reconstituting it at its final destination.
According to the report, UK authorities have noticed a “significant increase” in the seizure of cocaine delivered via international postal systems as well as courier services.
“There is no doubt that traffickers’ ingenuity knows no bounds,” Vella said, as they seek to maintain supply to Europe and North America, which account for three-quarters of global cocaine consumption.
According to the report, drug cartels have also established new routes to traffic and distribute the drug in order to avoid detection by anti-narcotics agents, particularly in developing markets in Asia and Africa. When compared to traditional entry points into Europe, such as Spain and Portugal, ports such as Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Hamburg have risen in prominence for the importation of the narcotic.
Global demand for the drug has also increased coca cultivation and production in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia, where the amount of land used to produce coca bushes in Colombia increased by 40% in 2021 to a total of 204,000 hectares.