Global cocaine production has reached record levels as demand rebounds following Covid lockdowns, a new report has found.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime said coca cultivation rose by 35% between 2020 and 2021 to record levels.
Findings suggest new hubs for trafficking have emerged in West and Central Africa.
The report also said traffickers were using international postal services more often to get drugs to consumers.
Europe and North America are the largest markets for cocaine, followed by South and Central America and the Caribbean.
While the report said the markets in Africa and Asia were “still limited”, the UN’s Ghada Waly said the potential for the market to expand there was a dangerous reality.
The Global Report on Cocaine said the production increase was the result of an expansion in the cultivation of coca bush, as well as improvements in converting coca into powdered cocaine.
The report says the outbreak of Covid-19 had a “disruptive” effect on drug markets as international travel was severely curtailed.
Demand for cocaine slumped as nightclubs and bars were shut during the pandemic lockdowns.
“However, the most recent data suggests this slump has had little impact on longer-term trends,” the report says. “The global supply of cocaine is at record levels.”
In the UK, the report says there has been a “significant increase” in seizures of cocaine in the “fast parcel and postal modes”.
Interceptions by law enforcement have also been on the rise – at a higher speed than production, the report outlines.