Daniel Brombacher, Günther Maihold

Cocaine Trafficking to Europe

Options of Supply Control

SWP Research Paper 2009/RP 10, September 2009, 37 Pages

The 52nd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) concluded on March 20, 2009 in Vienna, setting the fundamentals for international drug control policies for the next decade. At the same time, it evaluated the results of the resolution drafted during the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world’s drug problem. The 1998 declaration envisioned a significant reduction in the worldwide cultivation of opium poppy and coca by 2008. This objective was not achieved. While in Europe cocaine consumption has increased steadily in recent years, South American cocaine traffickers have gradually displaced their routes to West Africa, where they find excellent conditions for the illegal drug business. Consumption can be regulated through price mechanisms. If the price for a narcotic on the supply side rises, consumption drops off. The public actions taken to control the supply of cocaine make the drug expensive, not its vanishingly small production costs. However, supply control instruments vary widely in their impact on drug prices and consumption. This research paper analyzes the efficiency of the four main instruments of international supply control: alternative development, crop eradication, interdiction and precursor control. The analysis shows that supply control measures in the Andean drug producing countries have no effect on cocaine consumption in Europe. The value of the drug at the beginning of its commercial chain is too low for those instruments to create any impact on retail prices in Europe. Law enforcement and interdiction efforts close to the European consumer markets where cocaine is already expensive are more efficient if applied in a systematic manner and if accompanied by instruments of state building in cocaine transit states.