Global Cocaine Supply Hits Record High and ‘a Cause for Concern’, UN Study Says

According to a UN report, production increased by 35% between 2020-21, while the global supply comes almost exclusively from Bolivia, Peru and Colombia

Colombian anti-narcotics police spray glyphosate on a coca field in Tumaco, in Nariño department, in May 2019.
March 16, 2023 | 06:45 PM

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Bogotá — The global cocaine supply reached record levels worldwide following the post-pandemic economic recovery, and which “should put us all on high alert,” according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The Global Cocaine Report 2023 states that coca cultivation soared 35% between 2020 and 2021, the largest year-on-year increase since 2016.

This increase in production is in direct response to an increase in demand over the last decade.

“The increase is due to both the expansion of coca plant cultivation and improvements in the process of transforming coca plants into cocaine hydrochloride,” according to the UNODC report, which also states that seizures also reached a record high of nearly 2,000 tons in 2021.


“North Sea ports, such as Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg, have eclipsed the traditional entry points in Spain and Portugal for cocaine arriving in Western Europe,” according to the UN.

The business is still concentrated in the Americas and parts of Europe, but UNODC warns of strong potential for expansion in Africa and Asia.

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“The increase in the global supply of cocaine should put us all on high alert (...) The potential for expansion of the cocaine market in Africa and Asia is a dangerous reality,” said UNODC executive director Ghada Waly.


There has also been an increase and diversification of channels for maritime shipments from Central America to Europe.

While Andean countries such as Bolivia and Peru have seen increases in coca leaf cultivation, in Brazil there is an increase in the use of aircraft for the entry and movement of cocaine.

“The pandemic seems to have disrupted the cocaine market in Brazil, both from the point of view of supply and demand,” the report states.

The UNODC tweeted about the results of the report on Thursday, including a link to the text and data:


In Colombia, criminal groups have occupied the spaces left following the 2016 demobilization of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, and those now controlling coca growing regions in the country range from FARC dissidents to foreign groups from Mexico and Europe.

In 2021, coca cultivation in Colombia increased by 43% and potential cocaine manufacture rose by 14%, record levels in both cases.

“The evidence shows that the cocaine problem is a transnational-transatlantic-transcontinental problem,” warned Ghada Waly.


In February of this year, the Colombian government informed that together with Bolivia it was going to request the acceptance of the traditional use of coca leaf and remove it from the list of prohibited substances at the 66th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), which will be held this week in Vienna.

“Bolivia undertook an initiative about 10 years ago to achieve the legalization of the traditional use of coca. What they did was to denounce the Convention on Narcotics,” Vice Minister of Multilateral Affairs Laura Gil said at the time.

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