Coronavirus is cutting off illegal drugs supplies, says UN
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    Coronavirus is cutting off illegal drugs supplies, says UN

    170kg of cocaine seized at Antwerp. © Europol

    Thanks to a general slowdown in international traffic, drugs dealers are suffering a shortage of product, according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

    Thanks to the closure of many borders, and the fall in international shipping trade and airline traffic, drugs dealers are finding it difficult to smuggle their wares from producer to consumer, resulting in a shortage of product at the retail level.

    The disruption of air traffic is particularly hard for the dealers, the UN says, leading to an increase in maritime routes, as the major dealers change their strategies to overcome the problems linked to the pandemic.

    The news of a worldwide shortage of illegal drugs seems to be contradicted by the news only last month of three massive shipments of cocaine, totalling 1.6 tonnes, intercepted at Antwerp. Analysts now believe those shipments were the result of a shrewd move by drugs dealers who foresaw the coming problems and decided to move a huge amount of drugs from South America to Europe while it was still possible.

    The trade in heroin is also affected, the UN says, with shortages reported in Europe, North America and Western Asia. That leads to the danger of users switching to unfamiliar substitution products, and the risk of overdose.

    Now is the harvest season for the opium poppy in Afghanistan, from which heroin is made. Afghanistan has closed its border with Iran and Pakistan, and strictly limits internal travel. That is bound to have repercussions for the drugs trade in the months to come: 90% of the poppies grown for illegal use are cultivated in Afghanistan.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times