Global drug trade stable – Report

The global drug market for cocaine, heroin and cannabis has declined or remained stable, the World Drug Report 2011 has revealed.

The report says illicit cultivation of opium poppy and coca bush has remained limited to a few countries.

“Global opium poppy cultivation reached some 195,700 hectares (ha) in 2010, a small increase compared to 2009…however, opium production fell by 38% to 4,860 tons due to a blight that wiped out much of the opium harvest in Afghanistan”, it indicated.

Even though, opium production in Myanmar increased from 5% of global production in 2007 to 12% in 2010, the report said global opium production decreased by 45% between 2007 and 2010, notably as a result of poor yields in 2010.

But this trend is unlikely to continue, said the report meaning the world drug trade will bounce back.

The total area of land under coca cultivation worldwide shrank to 149,100 hectares in 2010, a decrease of 18% since 2007, said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which launched the report together with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York last week.

According to the report, potential cocaine production fell by about one sixth, reflecting a significant decrease in cocaine production in Colombia.

With an estimated 157 tonnes of cocaine having been used in the United States of America in 2009, the trade of cocaine has shrunk dramatically in recent years even though it continues to be the largest market for the drug.

But the drug use over the past decade in Europe has doubled, “although it has remained largely stable over the past few years”, the report noted.

The market prices for cocaine have dropped appreciably since the mid-1990s but today, the estimated value of the European cocaine market which is $36 billion is approaching that of the United States market of $37 billion.

The West African sub region was not left out of the game as it was once referred to as a “Cocaine Coast”.

The report estimates that about 21 tonnes of cocaine were trafficked via West Africa to Europe in 2009. This represents a decrease since 2007, when that figure was estimated to have reached as much as 47 tons.

“Nevertheless, cocaine trafficking in West Africa persisted, and Africa, especially West Africa, remained vulnerable to resurgence. Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Togo were all mentioned as transit countries for cocaine trafficking in 2008 and 2009.”

With cannabis also described as the world’s drug of choice, the report says it remains by far the most widely produced and used illicit substance in the world, although data on cannabis is limited.

The report reveals that “In 2009, between 2.8% and 4.5% of the world population aged 15-64 years – between 125 and 203 million people – had used cannabis at least once in the past year.”

Synthetic or fake drugs are under the radar in South-East Asia and Africa,the report said.

“The gains we have witnessed in the traditional drug markets are being offset by a fashion for synthetic ‘designer drugs’ mimicking illegal substances,” said Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of UNODC.


By Ekow Quandzie

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