Europe is increasingly becoming a hub for cocaine production and transshipment to other regions of the world, in addition to being a major consumer market, EU agencies said last week. They also warned about the growing methamphetamine industry.
After cannabis, cocaine is the most consumed drug in Europe, with millions of users and a turnover of about 10,5 billion euros ($11,1 billion) in 2020, according to a joint EU report by law enforcement agency Europol and drug agency EMCDDA.
European cocaine market is growing
The European market is growing, driven by higher production in South America and also by expanding the possibilities to process the raw drug in Europe itself. It could grow even more with the development of new types of smokeable cocaine products, the report said, warning of higher health risks. “There is now also more production taking place within Europe, indicating changes in the region's role in the international cocaine trade,” the report said.
According to data collected by the EU agencies, Belgium appears to be the center of European industry. It is the EU country that seized the most cocaine in 2020. The last year for which accurate data is available. This concerns about 70 tons, mainly in the port of Antwerp, against 49 tons in the Netherlands, Europe's second largest country for seizures.
Belgium is also a leading country in coca paste processing, alongside the Netherlands and Spain, according to the report, which cites seizures of large quantities of chemical precursors for cocaine production and information about processing facilities as evidence.
Drug transhipment and methamphetamine in Europe
Cocaine imported into Europe from South America is increasingly being re-exported to other parts of the world, especially the Middle East and Asia, making Europe "a major transshipment point for drugs coming from elsewhere," it said. report.
The European market for methamphetamine is also growing, but remains much smaller than that for cocaine. Moreover, it is difficult to estimate its exact size. The synthetic stimulant is traditionally produced mainly in the Czech Republic and consumed in Eastern Europe. New data shows that demand is increasing in Western Europe, especially in Belgium, which has become a major producer for the drug.
“There is now growing concern about production facilities in Belgium and the Netherlands, where methamphetamine can be produced on a significantly larger scale,” the report said. Europe is a leading producer of methamphetamine worldwide and European producers are now increasingly collaborating with Mexican criminal groups to refine production processes, the EU agencies warned.
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