In spite of increased competition from Mexico, Colombia continues to be the main supplier of heroin consumed in the United States, said the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Tuesday.
In its annual report on drug trafficking, the UNODC said that according to statistics provided by Washington, Colombia continues to be the US’ main supplier country of the illicit drug even though it’s dwarfed by Afghanistan and Mexico when it comes to production.
However, according to the UN report, “the available information on heroin production in Colombia and Mexico, two important supply countries for the United States market, is inconsistent and does not fully explain the heroin supply situation in the region, given that the potential cultivation is greater in Mexico, while the United States reports Colombia as its main supplier. There is insufficient information about the role played by heroin originating in Afghanistan for the United States market.”
Official data show a strong decline in opium and heroin production in Colombia over the period 1998-2007 and further declines to 2011. However, heroin prices did not increase. Nominal prices for heroin at the wholesale level were lower in 2011 in both dollars and Colombian pesos, than they were five years before, suggesting that the supply of heroin did not drastically diminish. In comparison, in Mexico, potential heroin production is estimated to be 30 times higher than in Colombia, and heroin seizures reached the Colombian level in 2011. Despite this, and while acknowledging the growing importance of Mexico as a supply country for heroin reaching its market, the United States – on the basis of information from its Heroin Signature Program – continues to consider Colombia the primary source of heroin in the country.
The UN stated that “It is unclear how Colombia, given its much lower potential production, could supply larger amounts to the United States market than Mexico. This points to heroin production in Colombia having a greater degree of importance than that reflected in the available potential production estimates, and/or different interpretations could be drawn from the United States Heroin Signature Program, since ‘investigative reporting suggests that heroin producers in Mexico maybe using Colombian processing techniques’.”
The report did not mention 2012 Colombia’s cocaine production, which is expected to be released shortly. Newspaper El Tiempo recently said to have parts of the report indicating a strong decline in Colombia’s coca cultivation, which may result in the country losing its traditional #1 position as coca cultivator.
- World Drug Report 2013 (PDF / UNODC)