Europe Becomes Cocaine Hub as Multi-Billion Dollar Market Expands, EU Says

A worker pushes a cart containing cocaine prior to the incineration of more than nine tons of cocaine seized during different operations, according to Ecuador’s Interior Ministry, at a warehouse in an undisclosed location, in Ecuador on April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Karen Toro/File Photo

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  • European cocaine market worth more than 10,000 million euros per year
  • From being a major importer, Europe has also become a producer, exporter
  • The methamphetamine market is also growing
  • Belgium at the center of the production and importation of cocaine and amphetamines

BRUSSELS, May 6 (Reuters) – Europe is increasingly becoming a hub for producing and transshipping cocaine to other regions of the world, as well as being a major consumer market, EU agencies said on Friday, also warning of the spread of methamphetamine. industry.

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

The European market is growing, driven by increased production in South America and also by expanding capacities to process the crude drug in Europe itself. It could grow even more with the development of new types of smokable cocaine products, according to the report, which warns of increased health risks.

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“More is now being produced within Europe as well, signaling changes in the region’s role in the international cocaine trade,” the report said.

Belgium appears to be at the center of the industry in Europe, according to data compiled by EU agencies. It is the EU country that seized the largest quantity of cocaine in 2020, the last year for which data is available, with a total volume of 70 tons, mainly in the port of Antwerp, compared to 49 tons in the Netherlands, the second largest nation in Europe in terms of seizures.

Belgium is also a leading coca paste processing country, along with the Netherlands and Spain, according to the report, citing as evidence the seizure of large amounts 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, particularly the Middle East and Asia, making Europe “a key transshipment point for drugs originating elsewhere.” , according to the report.

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

Traditionally, the synthetic stimulant drug has been produced mainly in the Czech Republic and consumed in Eastern Europe, but new data shows that demand is growing in Western Europe, especially 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 may be produced on a considerably larger scale,” the report says.

Europe is a leading producer of methamphetamine worldwide, and European producers are now increasingly working with Mexican criminal groups to refine production processes, EU agencies have warned.

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Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Edited by Bernadette Baum

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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