In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, production of cocaine has skyrocketed and new distribution hubs have emerged in Africa, reports the BBC. Cocaine production rose by 35% between 2020 and 2021, marking the biggest increase in seven years, per CBS News, which also cites a new report from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. The 184-page UNODC report notes that cocaine from South America is no longer produced under the control of "a few major players" but now "involves criminal groups of all sizes, structures and objectives. That includes a greater presence of foreign groups in Colombia looking to improve supply lines, according to the report.
Along with parts of Africa, cocaine traffickers have also reportedly set up shop in southeastern Europe and begun using the North Sea, with ports in places such as Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Hamburg eclipsing previously known entry points in places such as Spain and Portugal, per the Guardian. Pandemic travel restrictions also changed the way the schedule II drug is distributed. The UNODC notes that COVID-19 prompted a "significant" rise in the use of parcel services to smuggle cocaine around the world. “There’s no question that there is no limit to the ingenuity of traffickers,” said Antoine Vella, a UNODC researcher. (Read more cocaine stories.)