Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Opium production up in Burma: UN

Tuesday, 20 December 2011 19:46 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – Fighting in ethnic areas of Burma has caused opium crops to surge in the country’s northern and eastern states.

A new report by the UN Office on Drug and Crime said another cause was the oldest of reasons – higher prices for farmers, many of whom who have been put out of work because of the fighting.

The UN’s regional representative, Gary Lewis, told the media: "It's very rare that I have seen poverty... in a rural setting to the extent that one sees in Shan.” Many farmers have switched from subsistence and market crops to opium because of the profits. "Food insecurity, poverty, conflict" are the three driving forces, he said.

According to the UN body, Burma’s opium crop was 16 per cent higher in 2011 than last year  – with 48,000 hectares, or 300,000 rai planted. More than 90 per cent of the opium in Southeast Asia comes from Burma, it said. Afghanistan remains the world's largest opium and heroin supplier.

One success story was cited: The Thai section of the Golden Triangle has largely stopped producing opium and heroin because farmers can now grow and sell far more profitable crops – potatoes for McDonald's, apples for Bangkok, flowers for ladies in Hong Kong and Europe.

Now, according to the UN, many farmers can get more for opium than for other crops. This is a profound change in the drug economy, requiring fast counter moves by governments and drug experts.

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