Tuesday, May 12, 2023
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: World cocaine market ‘in retreat’

The international cocaine market is “in retreat” after a year of successful operations around the world, the Serious Organised Crime Agency claims.

It says its undercover work has helped send wholesale prices soaring.

Prices per kilo have risen from £39,000 in 2023 to over £45,000 (50,000 euros), but street prices have remained stable.

However, new figures obtained by the BBC suggest almost a third of police seizures are now less than 9% pure, the lowest recorded purity level.

I suspect my skepticism on this topic is getting to sound like a broken record, but such reports also require a reality check.

First, if the street price is remaining steady, it is difficult to claim success of the policy, as the whole purpose of trying to drive up the price of an illicit substance is to make it too expensive for the user. If users are paying the same price that they were paying previously, then that’s a major problem with the application of the policy.

Second, if wholesalers are getting higher per kilo prices, isn’t that a motivation to continue selling?

Third, the purity issue does suggest some success on the supply-side of the equation, but it is difficult to know if this is a short or long term situation. Past experience dictates that it is a short term situation. Beyond that, if, at the moment, pushers are selling impure product, all that is doing it taking an already problematic health situation and making it worse for the user. Also, getting back to point number two, if pushers can sell impure product at the same street price as the pure product, why not sell the impure product? Granted, users way decide that the cocaine isn’t worth the money, but it isn’t as if cocaine is the only drug available.

The bottom line here is that it is almost certainly the case that the supply issues are temporary ones and that the information reported hardly sums to a likely “retreat” in the cocaine trade. Getting back to the second point above, it is difficult to conceive that a situation that enhances the motivation of wholesalers to produce product for market is going to lead to the cartels calling it quits.

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