Soybean shipment turns out to be €1 billion worth of cocaine

German authorities announced their biggest-ever cocaine haul on Saturday, seizing four and a half tonnes of cocaine with an estimated street value of nearly €1 billion (NZ$1.7 billion).

Officials in Hamburg said the drugs were seized two weeks ago when they checked a container on its way from Montevideo to Belgium.

The paperwork stated the container was loaded with soya beans, but customs officials could only see black sports bags when they opened it up.

"We expected a shipment of soybeans that were registered according to documents, then we found 211 of such bags filled with cocaine - a total of 4200 packages," said Andreas Franke, Hamburg customs officer.

It was Germany's biggest single seizure of cocaine to date.

"You have to imagine that these four-and-a-half tonnes are stretched again for consumption, so that a total of about €1 billion worth of cocaine has been withdrawn from the market," said Michale Schrader, Hamburg customs spokesman.

Officials said the drugs had already been destroyed "amid strict secrecy and extensive security precautions".

"We have been observing for quite some time that we have really a glut of cocaine here in Germany," said Sebastian Fiedler, Association of German Criminal Investigators.

"That is not only experienced in such outstanding pick-ups as was the case now at the port of Hamburg but we also experience this in other control situations where colleagues report every day that the stuff literally falls in front of their feet."

Earlier this year, US drug officials said New Zealand was the "best market" in the world for cocaine and meth.

APTN / Newshub.