Europe turns into cocaine hub as multibillion-euro market expands, EU says

A worker pushes a cart containing cocaine before cremating more than nine tonnes of cocaine seized during various operations, according to the Ecuadorian Interior Ministry, at a warehouse at an unknown location in Ecuador on April 21, 2022. REUTERS / Karen Toro / File photo

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to

  • European cocaine market worth over € 10 billion a year
  • From a large importer, Europe also becomes a producer, an exporter
  • The methamphetamine market is also growing
  • Belgium at the center of cocaine, amphetamine production, imports

BRUSSELS, May 6 (Reuters) – Europe is increasingly becoming a hub for cocaine production and transhipment in areas other than the major consumer market, EU officials said on Friday, warning of an expansion of the methamphetamine industry.

After cannabis, cocaine is the most consumed drug in Europe, with millions of users and sales of around € 10.5 billion ($ 11.1 billion) in 2020, according to a joint EU report by Europol and the agency drug EMCDDA.

The European market is growing, driven by higher production in South America and also by the expansion of crude medicine processing capabilities in Europe itself. It could increase even more with the development of new types of cocaine smoking products, the report says, warning of higher health risks.

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to

“More production is also taking place now in Europe, indicating changes in the region’s role in the international cocaine trade,” the report said.

Belgium appears to be at the center of industry in Europe, according to data collected by Community agencies. It is the EU country that seized the most cocaine in 2020, the last year for which data are available, for a total volume of 70 tonnes mainly in the port of Antwerp, compared to 49 tonnes in the Netherlands, Europe’s second largest country for seizures.

Belgium is also a leader in coca paste processing, along with the Netherlands and Spain, according to the report, which cites seizures of large quantities of chemical precursors for cocaine production and information on processing facilities.

Cocaine imported into Europe from South America is increasingly being re-exported to other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and Asia, making Europe “a major transit point for drugs from elsewhere,” the report said.

The European methamphetamine market is also growing, but remains much smaller than that of cocaine, the report said, noting that it was difficult to estimate its exact size.

Synthetic stimulants are traditionally produced mainly in the Czech Republic and consumed in Eastern Europe, but new data show that demand is growing in Western Europe, especially in Belgium, which has become a major producer of the drug.

“There is now growing concern about production facilities located in Belgium and the Netherlands, where methamphetamine can be produced on a much larger scale,” the report said.

Europe is the world’s leading producer of methamphetamine and European producers are now increasingly working with Mexican criminal groups to improve production processes, EU services have warned.

($ 1 = 0.9443 euros)

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to

Report by Francesco Guarascio. Edited by Bernadette Baum

Our role models: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *