Price of cocaine rockets as smuggling routes are closed

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The Independent Online

Wholesale cocaine prices have reached record levels despite a huge drop in seizures of the drug, police said yesterday.

Officials at the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) said the availability and purity of the drug have been hit by a crackdown on smuggling routes through West Africa. The move, in which illicit remote landing strips have been shut down, has driven smugglers into the hands of other organisations.

The agency's annual report revealed that cocaine seizures fell by more than half from 85 tonnes in 2008/09 to 33 tonnes last year. The quantity of heroin and cannabis seized rose slightly, while opium rocketed from seven tonnes in 2008/9 to 36 tonnes last year.

The report said: "Consistent shortages of high-quality cocaine were seen throughout the UK, and in other significant consumer markets. This forced prices of wholesale cocaine up, particularly in the UK, where it reached the highest ever recorded levels."

Soca said that officers in Colombia and Venezuela had dismantled several laboratories producing up to one tonne of cocaine a month. In Britain, investigators continue to clamp down on businesses that supply cutting agents which are used by drug dealers to maximise profits.