"The global supply of cocaine is at record levels. Cultivation doubled between 2013 and 2017, peaked in 2018 and rose sharply again in 2021. The process from coca bush cultivation to cocaine hydrochloride has also become more efficient, contributing even further to the global supply of cocaine.
"In parallel, law enforcement agencies are seizing greater amounts of cocaine. Preliminary figures for 2021 suggest a very sharp rise in seizures. In recent years, seizures showed an underlying upward trend across most regions, punctuatedf by a "bump" brought about by COVID.
"The COVID pandemic had short-term ramifications for the cocaine market across the world. In the origin countries of Bolivia (Plurinational State of) and Peru, cultivation rose and eradication efforts were curtailed during the pandemic. Yet traffickers struggled to get their product to market, creating an overabundance of coca leaf that pushed down prices.
"During the pandemic in Brazil, traffickers increased the use of aircrafts to get cocaine into the country. This led to an overall rise in the amount of cocaine coming into Brazil just as outgoing flows began to fall. The pandemic also had a possible impact on domestic consumption.
"In Western and Central Europe, the pandemic appears to have had a temporary restraining effect on the ongoing expansion of the cocaine market. Following a period of steady growth, cocaine seizures stabilized in 2020 before rebounding in 2021. Wastewater-based indicators also suggest a dip in consumption that recovered in 2021.
"Wastewater measurements from Australia suggest consumption declined by approximately one half in the year from late 2020, before rebounding moderately in the last quarter of 2021. This was probably linked to the lockdowns and curfews that reduced opportunities to use drugs in social settings. These measures may have also made it more onerous for criminal groups to coordinate their activities.
"Outside of the principal markets, the pandemic affected trafficking activities in Africa, Asia, and East and Southeast Europe. Seizures fell during 2020 in those regions, before rebounding in 2021. In South Africa, the authorities reported traffickers were increasingly using maritime routes since the pandemic."
UNODC, Global Report on Cocaine 2023 - Local Dynamics, Global Challenges. United Nations publications, 2023.