Global supply of cocaine at record high, Belgium one of Europe's largest import centres (UN)
Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have become the main import centres for cocaine in Western Europe. This was reaffirmed in a report presented by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna on Thursday.
"North Sea ports such as Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg put traditional import destinations in Spain and Portugal in the shade," the organisation said in a report on the global illicit cocaine market. UN experts say the North Sea route may also have contributed to the greater spread of cocaine in Europe.
In many regions worldwide, demand for the drug has increased over the past decade. But the UN agency on Thursday also expressed concern about the increased cultivation of coca plants. After a dip in production during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been another 35 per cent increase.
"The increase in global cocaine supply should put us all in a high state of preparedness"
The amount of land used for cultivation in South America has risen to more than 300,000 hectares. Moreover, advances in the chemical processing of the coca plant into cocaine have also contributed to the increase in production. "The increase in global cocaine supply should put us all in a high state of preparedness," says UNODC director Ghada Waly.
Finally, the report points to the impact of the war in Ukraine on drug routes. "It is likely that foreign criminal groups," which used to use Ukrainian ports to avoid controls in Western Europe, "will shift their activities to other Black Sea ports in Romania or Bulgaria."
In May last year, a report by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) had already indicated Belgium as "the European champion" in the interception of large quantities of cocaine. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, most of these shipments originated in Ecuador.
© BELGA PHOTO LIEVEN VAN ASSCHE