Colombia is projected to see cocaine overtake oil as its primary export, fueled by an expanding narcotics trade and a more lenient drug policy by the government, as estimated by Bloomberg Economics. Oil exports have declined by 30% in the first half of the year, while the trend in the cocaine trade has been consistently rising, positioning it to potentially become Colombia’s top export in the near future. According to Bloomberg economist Felipe Hernandez, cocaine export revenues are estimated to have surged to $18.2 billion in 2022, nearing the $19.1 billion in oil exports from the previous year.
Colombia’s cocaine output reached a record 1,738 tons in the previous year, and the area of land used for cultivating coca, the raw material for making cocaine, increased by 13% to a record 230,000 hectares (570,000 acres) in 2022 compared to the previous year. This data is from a UN Office on Drugs and Crime report published recently.
The shift in Colombia’s approach toward drug trafficking, led by President Gustavo Petro, a leftist leader, has focused on targeting drug lords who profit more from overseas narcotics sales rather than coca leaf producers, who are considered the weakest link in the production chain. This shift has unintentionally facilitated illegal groups to ramp up cocaine production, according to Hernandez.
It’s important to note that these projections and estimates are based on calculations of export volume as the difference between production and seizures, which may not fully account for domestic consumption and seizures in transit and destination countries. The export price is also calculated based on certain methodologies related to average wholesale prices in specific years.