Turkey’s role as a transit country for cocaine has been growing as the amount of the drug seized in the country has increased sevenfold since 2014, according to a recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
According to the report, titled “Global Report on Cocaine 2023,” the cultivation of coca bush saw an increase of 35 percent globally between 2021 and 2022, while the amount of the drug seized in Turkey increased to a record 2.8 tons in 2021.
The report said some of the cocaine reaching Turkey arrives after transiting through West Africa and some comes directly from Latin America, with the outbound cocaine flowing westwards from Turkey through the Black Sea and the Balkans, a route traditionally associated with the trafficking of opiates and the smuggling of cigarettes.
The report further revealed that Turkey’s neighbor Greece has also been receiving rising quantities of cocaine in recent years, much of it destined for the same Balkan route and the markets of Western Europe. Greece intercepted almost 2 tons in 2020 before falling back slightly in 2022, the UNODC said, citing seizure data.
The main markets for cocaine worldwide are listed in the report as North America and Western and Central Europe, followed by South and Central America and the Caribbean, while the “still limited” markets in Africa and Asia are said to have the potential for expansion.
The report also emphasizes that container shipments of fresh fruit from South America, in particular Ecuador, have been a “typical” method of concealment for cocaine that arrives at the Balkan seaports.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a “disruptive” effect on drug markets, according to the report, with the most recent data suggesting, however, that the slump in demand for drugs like cocaine has had little impact on longer-term trends.
The global supply of cocaine is at record levels, according to the report, which stated that almost 2,000 tons were produced in 2020, continuing a dramatic uptick in manufacture that began in 2014, when the total was less than half of today’s levels.