UNODC CRIMJUST launches Cocaine Insights 4 with spotlight on COVID-19 impacts on regional and transatlantic cocaine routes through Brazil  

19 July 2022 - COVID-19 and its impact on the cocaine supply chain in and around Brazil is the subject of the fourth in the series of ‘Cocaine Insights’, released  by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Centre of Excellence for Illicit Drug Supply Reduction in Brazil (CoE). The virtual event, counted with the participation of the European Union, represented through the Global Illicit Flows Programme and Brazil’s National Secretariat on Drug Policy and Asset Management (SENAD).

Moderated by Chloe Carpentier, Chief of UNODC Research Section, this event was inagurated by Matthew Willner-Reid, Programme Manager for the EU’s Global Illicit Flows Programme, who reiterated the European Union support to CRIMJUST, as well as underscored the importance of  the “Cocaine Insights” series, a tool that provides strategic knowledge about the evolution of drug trafficking to enable member states to implement evidence-based policies.

The remarks were followed by Elena Abbati, Country Director of UNODC's Liaison and Partnership Office in Brazil who highlighted that the global production of cocaine has reached record levels, amounting to 1,982 tons as of 2022.Trafficking routes are determined by production and consumption locations, and Brazil sits in the path for cocaine trafficking from South America to Africa and Europe. 

UNODC Research Officer, Antoine Vella and Gabriel Andreuccetti, from the Centre of Excellence for Illicit Drug Supply Reduction, underlined important changes in drug trafficking and organized crime patterns in Brazil through the new contexts of the pandemic.

Panellists released the publication which points out that COVID-19 affected law enforcement activities, disrupted the activity of organized crime groups, impacted cocaine and cannabis flows and induced changes in trafficking modalities, amongst other impacts on the cocaine trade in Brazil and the region.

COVID-19 lockdown  measures in Brazil allowed law enforcement to dedicate more resources to drug interdiction. Thus, seizures of cocaine and cannabis both increased sharply in number. The report also details how cannabis supply expanded across Brazil while the impact on cocaine varied across federal units, despite an overall decline in the quantities seized. Cocaine seizures data from the country suggests that, following the onset of COVID-19, western provinces saw a rising trend of cocaine while a falling trend can be observed in the eastern provinces, as flows from seaports out of the country declined.

Cocaine Insights 4 shows that COVID-related measures brought about difficulties for organized crime groups to move imported cocaine internally towards exit ports and areas of consumption. The difficulties in cross-border transportation of cocaine likely led to a surge in clandestine flights and thus to a surge in flows into western border states.

A drop in cocaine seizures at Brazilian seaports occurred in parallel with declines in cocaine seized in destination countries, such as those in Western and Central Europe, in consignments known to have departed from Brazil. The disruption in flows from Brazil appears to have been temporary, though.

Cocaine Insights 4 also paints a picture of COVID accelerating already existing trends in cocaine trafficking. COVID forced law enforcement agencies in Brazil to adapt and hampered some police activities, yet conversely prompted lockdown measures that facilitated drug interdiction on roads. Along with this, the report details how cannabis availability expanded across Brazil after the onset of COVID-19, driven by big increases in flows from Paraguay.

Cocaine Insights 4 also highlights how criminal organizations continue to be more specialized and increasingly use new technologies. This complex scenario reinforces the need to continue strengthening international cooperation to address transnational organized crime in an articulate way, focusing on people and comprehensively considering economic and social aspects. 


Further information: 

The series ‘Cocaine Insights,’ developed by UNODC in the framework of the CRIMJUST Programme in cooperation with partners and stakeholders at national, regional, and international levels, delivers in an accessible and informative format the latest knowledge and trends on issues related to cocaine markets: the illicit cocaine trade, its impact, and the outlook for the future. This publication is the result of a collaboration between UNODC and the CoE. The CoE is a partnership between UNODC, the National Secretariat for Drug Policies and Assets Management of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, and the United Nations Development Program in Brazil.  For information on the series click here: Tools and Publications (


This initiative is funded by the European Union and by the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). It seeks to enhance law enforcement and judicial counter-narcotic strategies beyond interdiction activities and to foster transnational responses targeting each stage of the drug supply chain.

 For more information, please visit:

- Global Illicit Flows Programme of the European Union (GIFP)

Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)