India's rising exports: Ketamine


India has become a major ketamine source for South East Asian countries, with the number and quantity of seizures rising. Ketamine, while restricted for export, is not banned in India as in many of the countries it supplies. Ketamine does not as yet fall under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, under which offences can lead to a 10-year jail sentence. While a kilo of ketamine can cost between 15 and 35,000 rupees ($290) in India, its international value can soar as high as 10 lakhs, over $21,000. Thus, many illegal exporters of other substances such as heroin may be shifting to ketamine, due to lower risk under the law and a higher pay off abroad. Trawling the internet, we find that you can obtain a kilo of top quality ketamine for a mere $6,000 in the post. Indeed, a Goan pharmacist was arrested last month for smuggling ketamine to European countries in this fashion.


Demand for ketamine in the countries of South East Asia is increasing, and illegal exporters in India appear to be rising to meet the challenge through all means imaginable. In the past years, attempts have been made to smuggle the substance hidden in onions and soap, as well as 'disguised' as salt. Two of the biggest seizures were made in November and December of last year when almost 400kg of the substance was seized at Chennai airport. The majority of seizures are made in southern India, of consignments bound for Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and the Philippines. While the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized 247kg of ketamine in 2007-2008, this figure more than doubled to 574kg in 2008-2009. Including the amount seized by other narcotics agencies this past year (599kg), it reaches a grand total of 1,173kg.