December 14, 2009
Opium cultivation in Myanmar has almost doubled since 2006, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced on Monday, warning of a worrisome expansion of its production in the region. “The trend is going in the wrong direction,” UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa said in a statement ahead of the presentation of the office’s latest survey on Opium Poppy Cultivation in Southeast Asia.
Myanmar, the world’s main producer of opium in the early 1990s, only produces about a quarter of the amount grown in Afghanistan, the world’s new top producer, the UNODC noted.
But the land dedicated to opium cultivation in the southeast Asian country increased in 2009 for the third year in a row, by 11 percent to 31,700 hectares. Compared to 2006, this represented a 50-percent hike, the office added.
The silver lining was that despite the hike in cultivation, yields were down 28 percent, production fell by 20 percent and the total production value of Myanmar’s crop had dropped by 15 percent in 2009, to about US$104 million dollars (S$144.62 million) from US$123 million (S$171.04 million) in 2008, the UNODC said.
Nevertheless, Costa warned: “Governments and donors need to stay the course and ensure sufficient duration of commitment and funding for all aspects of the drug issue: security, development, and health.”
In Laos, for instance, cultivation was also up by 19 percent and opium production remained an attractive option for farmers at the price of 1,327 dollars per kilogramme, over four times as high as in neighbouring Myanmar.
Another danger was the growing production and consumption of synthetic drugs in the Greater Mekong region, once famed as the Golden Triangle of opium.
“It would be a pyrrhic victory for drug control if South-East Asia’s opium was simply replaced by amphetamine-type stimulants,” Costa noted.