Cocaine Supply Chains Experience Serious Disruptions due to Covid-19

Somebody please think of the coke dealers.

By Bubba Krishnamurti

Some drugs are just more recession-proof than others. Despite cannabis getting a slight boost from the quarantine, coronavirus has not been a lift for those who sell cocaine. A recent United Nations report has discovered that global lockdowns have wrought serious disruption in cocaine distribution. As with many other illicit drugs, cocaine is distributed internationally under the guise of legitimate businesses. The pandemic lockdowns have brought otherwise booming Central and North American trade to a virtual standstill.

“The measures implemented by governments to counter the pandemic have thus inevitably affected all aspects of the illegal drug markets, from the production and trafficking of drugs to their consumption,” said the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in a recent report.

Trade is not the only issue mitigating cocaine distribution. In populations largely quarantined in their homes, production has become more difficult. Eradication efforts and limited access to petro have further dampened the typically ample production. “Reports from Colombia indicate that law enforcement pressure has increased during the pandemic and that the coca bush eradication campaign is continuing as planned. Cocaine production appears to be being impeded, as producers, especially in eastern Colombia, are suffering from a shortage of gasoline, which was previously smuggled from the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela and is essential in cocaine production,” the report claimed. 

Nonetheless, your friendly blow peddler had foresight. Surviving a pandemic for an inordinate amount of time can have disastrous consequences on even your most stocked coke dealer. Anticipating slow production and supply lines, drug traffickers doubled down on the volume of shipments just ahead of closed borders and quarantined cities.

” Brah, I got hella product stockpiled while everyone was stocking up on groceries and toilet paper. I am telling people to pace themselves and that I can’t make any breaks on price, cause I got limited supply and trying to make maximum bread” a Houston area dealer told testset.

Yet since the initial phase of the quarantine, seizures by both the U.N. and governments have markedly waned. Bob Van den Berghe with the Container Control Program at the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported  “we saw a very substantive drop in the seizures,” which could indicate fewer shipments.”

“It has become more difficult for criminal organizations to get cocaine into the maritime ports because borders are closed, roads are closed; you have police officers everywhere,” he added.

“The narcos play a numbers game. The drug trafficking organizations are happy to accept a 15% to 20% loss ratio, but with fewer containers to check in ports, the odds are stacked further against them than normal,”  co-director of InSight Crime’s Jeremy McDermott — a Medellin, Colombia-based policy institute that studies the drug trade and organized crime.

One would imagine that the demand side would be a problem for traffickers as well. However, both demand and prices are up. Way up. The typical wholesale price for a kilo of cocaine moving through Europe rose from $27,000 a kilo in  January of 2019 to $35,000 a kilo today.

“People are prepared to pay more money because it’s much harder to get your drugs than before when you could go out and meet your dealer. Now you have to use the drug delivery networks or the dark web,” McDermott said. “For the retail drug dealer it’s a dream scenario. For the drug producer it’s frustrating.”

The final policy implications of the Vienna based U.N. study served as a stark warning that the lasting transformation of the drug markets will not only be ‘positive.’ Many locals will resort to drugs shipped via dark web or practices far more dangerous than the illicit drugs they were already engaging in.

The report summarized“ People who use drugs may increasingly access the darknet in order to overcome the effects of street control and drug delivery by mail could become more popular. The economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 crisis could, in the medium-term, lead to further increases in drug production, trafficking and use. The crisis may have a transformative effect on drug markets and may exacerbate the socioeconomic situation of vulnerable groups who in turn may increasingly resort to illicit activities. Indeed, an increasing number of people may resort to illicit activities to compensate for the loss of licit income and unemployment. Once restrictions are lifted, economic shocks may also prompt an increase in drug consumption, as observed in the past.” 

The summary closed with a reminder that the countries that produce the drugs are not solely responsible for the drug trade. Countries that have no production are more often than not those who consume all the fucking drugs. “Most of the demand for trafficked substances comes from countries other than those where drugs are produced and most drug-related income is generated in destination countries. As such, tackling drug trafficking remains a shared responsibility that requires a concerted international effort targeting the new challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which are affecting countries of supply, transit and destination,” the report warned.

To any cokeheads out there, right now is a stellar time to quit. 


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