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Please note that the information on this page is based on the EMCDDA Annual report 2011: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. Most statistical data relate to the year 2009 (or the last year available).

 
 

Annual report 2011: the state of the drugs problem in Europe
Cocaine and crack cocaine

Published: 15 November 2011

Supply and availability

Production and trafficking

Cultivation of coca bush, the source of cocaine, continues to be concentrated in three Andean countries, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. The UNODC (2011) estimated that the area under coca bush cultivation in 2010 amounted to 149 000 hectares, a 6 % decrease from the estimate of 158 000 hectares in 2009. This decrease was largely attributed to a reduction in the area under coca cultivation in Columbia, which has been partially offset by increases in Peru and Bolivia. The 149 000 hectares of coca bush translated into a potential production of between 786 and 1 054 tonnes of pure cocaine, compared to an estimated 842-1 111 tonnes in 2009 (UNODC, 2011).

The conversion of coca leaves into cocaine hydrochloride is mainly carried out in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, although it may also occur in other countries. Colombia's importance in the production of cocaine is corroborated by information on laboratories dismantled and seizures of potassium permanganate, a chemical reagent used in the manufacture of cocaine hydrochloride. In 2009, 2 900 cocaine laboratories were dismantled (UNODC, 2011) and a total of 23 tonnes of potassium permanganate (90 % of global seizures) was seized in Colombia (INCB, 2011a).

Table 8: Production, seizures, price and purity of cocaine and crack cocaine
  Cocaine powder (hydrochloride) Crack (cocaine base) (1)

(1) Due to the small set of countries reporting information, data should be interpreted with caution.
(2) UNODC estimates this figure to be equivalent to 431 to 562 tonnes of pure cocaine.
(3) The total amount of cocaine seized in 2009 is likely to be underestimated, largely due to the lack of recent data for the Netherlands, a country reporting relatively large seizures up to 2007. In the absence of 2008 and 2009 data, values for the Netherlands cannot be included in European estimates for 2009.
(4) Range of the middle half of the reported data. 

NB:
All data are for 2009; n.a., data not available.

Sources:
UNODC (2011), World drug report 2011, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna.
Reitox national focal points for European data.

Global production estimate
(tonnes)
786–1 054 n.a.
Global quantities seized
(tonnes)
732 (2) n.a.
Quantity seized (tonnes)
EU and Norway
(Including Croatia and Turkey) (3)
49
(49)
0.09
(0.09)
Number of seizures
EU and Norway
(Including Croatia and Turkey)

98 500
(99 000)

7 500
(7 500)
Mean retail price (EUR per gram)
Range
(Interquartile range) (4)

45–104
(50.2–78.2)

55–70

Mean purity (%)
Range
(Interquartile range) (4)


18–51
(25.0–38.7)

6–75

Cocaine consignments to Europe appear to be transited through most countries in South and Central America, though mainly through Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela and Mexico. Caribbean islands are also frequently used in the transhipment of the drug to Europe. In recent years, alternative routes through West Africa have been detected (EMCDDA and Europol, 2010). Although a 'substantive decline' in seizures of cocaine transiting West Africa since 2007 has been reported (UNODC, 2011), it is likely that significant amounts of the drug still go through the region (EMCDDA and Europol, 2010).

Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal, and to some extent Belgium, appear to be the main points of entry to Europe for cocaine. Within Europe, reports frequently mention Germany, France and the United Kingdom as important transit or destination countries. The United Kingdom estimates that 25-30 tonnes of cocaine are imported into the country each year. Recent reports also indicate that cocaine trafficking may be expanding eastward (EMCDDA and Europol, 2010; INCB, 2011b). The aggregate figure for twelve central and eastern European countries shows an increase in the number of cocaine seizures, from 666 cases in 2004 to 1 232 in 2009, but these still represent only about 1 % of the European total. Quantities of cocaine intercepted in this region more than doubled between 2008 and 2009, mainly due to record seizures in Bulgaria (0.23 tonnes) and Romania (1.3 tonnes), two countries that lie along the so-called Balkan route, usually associated with heroin trafficking.

Seizures

Cocaine is the most trafficked drug in the world after herbal cannabis and cannabis resin. In 2009, global seizures of cocaine remained largely stable at about 732 tonnes (Table 8) (UNODC, 2011). South America continued to report the largest amount seized, accounting for 60 % of the global figure, followed by North America with 18 %, and Europe with 8 % (UNODC, 2011).

The number of cocaine seizures in Europe has been rising for the last 20 years, and more notably since 2004, reaching an estimated 99 000 cases in 2009. The total quantity intercepted peaked in 2006, and has halved since then to an estimated 49 tonnes in 2009. This fall is largely accounted for by decreases in the amounts recovered in Spain and Portugal (1), though it is unclear to what extent this is due to changes in trafficking routes or practices, or in law enforcement priorities. In 2009, Spain continued to be the country reporting both the highest number of seizures of cocaine and the largest quantity of the drug seized in Europe, about half the total in both cases. However, this assessment is preliminary, as recent data are not available for the Netherlands. In 2007, the last year for which data are available, the Netherlands reported seizing around 10 tonnes of cocaine.

Purity and price

The mean purity of cocaine samples tested ranged between 25 % and 43 % in half of the countries providing data for 2009. The lowest values were reported in Denmark (retail only, 18 %) and the United Kingdom (England and Wales, 20 %), and the highest ones in Belgium (51 %) and Spain and the Netherlands (49 %) (2). Twenty-two countries provided sufficient data for analysis of trends in cocaine purity over the period 2004-09, with 19 of the countries reporting a decline, two a stable situation (Germany, Slovakia), and Portugal observing an increase. Overall, cocaine purity declined by an estimated average of 20 % in the European Union in the period 2004-09 (3).

The mean retail price of cocaine ranged between EUR 50 and EUR 80 per gram in most of the countries reporting data for 2009. The United Kingdom reported the lowest mean price (EUR 45), while Luxembourg reported the highest (EUR 104). Almost all countries with sufficient data to make a comparison reported a stabilisation or decrease in cocaine retail prices between 2004 and 2009. In the period 2004-09, the retail price of cocaine in the European Union declined by an estimated average of 21 % (4).

Wholesale and retail drug prices: cocaine

Wholesale drug prices are the prices paid for large quantities that will be distributed within a country, whereas retail prices are those paid by the drug user. By comparing the two, estimates can be made of the maximum profit margins that drug traffickers may obtain in the retail market.

Recent data collected by the EMCDDA from 14 European countries show that, in 2008, the wholesale price for consignments of one kilogram of cocaine can be estimated at between EUR 31 000 and EUR 58 000, with most countries reporting figures of around EUR 35 000. When reported, the average purity level of such consignments was close to 70 %.

In 2008, retail cocaine prices varied from EUR 50 000 to EUR 80 000 for the equivalent of one kilogram of cocaine in these countries, and were thereby 25 % to 83 % higher than wholesale prices. Purity levels decreased when moving from the wholesale to the retail market, where they were reported to be on average between 13 % and 60 %, depending on the country. Additional data are, however, required to precisely estimate purity-adjusted price differences between the wholesale and the retail level.

An overview of methods and data availability in Europe is available in an EMCDDA report on a pilot study on wholesale drug prices published in 2011.

Footnotes

(1) See Tables SZR-9 and SZR-10 in the 2011 statistical bulletin.

(2) For purity and price data, see Tables PPP-3 and PPP-7 in the 2011 statistical bulletin.

(3) See Figure PPP-2 in the 2011 statistical bulletin.

(4) See Figure PPP-1 in the 2011 statistical bulletin.

Bibliographic references

EMCDDA and Europol (2010), Cocaine. A European Union perspective in the global context, EMCDDA-Europol joint publications, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

INCB (2011a), Precursors and chemicals frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, United Nations, New York.

INCB (2011b), Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2010, United Nations, New York.

UNODC (2011), World drug report 2011, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna.

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The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Friday, 28 October 2011