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Burma remains No. 2 opium-producing country

Opium production has rebounded to previous high levels in Afghanistan, the world's biggest opium producer, followed by Burma, the No. 2 opium-producing country, said the new United Nations 2012 World Drug Report released on Tuesday.

Poppies growing in northeastern Burma. Photo: UNODCLooking at the global picture, lower overall levels of cultivation and production of opium and coca have been offset by rising levels of synthetic drug production, said the report issued in Geneva.

“We may anticipate that this year there will be another plant disease - maybe not to the same scale as 2010 - but [it] still may affect, especially in the southern part of Afghanistan, poppy cultivation,” said U.N. Office of Drug Control (UNODC) Executive Director Yuri Fedotov.

“This means that the production of opium may not increase or may even decrease, but at the same time definitely it would lead to an increase in prices for the next year. That is something we need to address very seriously.”

Around 230 million people, or 5 per cent of the world's adult population (age 15 to 64), are estimated to have used an illicit drug at least once in 2010, according to the report.

While the global production of opiates remains high, opiate use in North America and Europe appears to be stable or shrinking. However, in Africa and Asia, which together account for about 70 per cent of global opiate users, there is a lack of clear data so the possibility may exist of increasing, but undetected, use.

On synthetic drugs, the report said that the use and global seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants, the second most widely used drugs worldwide, remained largely stable. However, in 2010, methamphetamine seizures (45 tons) more than doubled those of 2008 (21.5 tons), due to significant seizures in Central America and East and Southeast Asia.

Cannabis remains the world's most widely used illicit substance, with between 119 million and 224 million estimated cannabis users worldwide. Europe is the world's biggest market for cannabis resin (hashish) mainly supplied by Morocco, although its relative importance is declining.

On prescription pharmaceuticals, the report said that in many countries there is more non-medical use of prescription drugs than of controlled substance, other than cannabis. While illicit drug use is overall much higher among males than females, the non-medical use of tranquillizers and sedatives is higher among women, as shown where data are available (South America, Central America and Europe).

Fedotov said illicit drugs fuel crime and insecurity, while undermining human rights and posing significant public health risks: “Heroin, cocaine and other drugs continue to kill around 200,000 people a year, shattering families and bringing misery to thousands of other people, insecurity and the spread of HIV. The public health aspects of prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and reintegration all have to be recognized as key elements in the global strategy to reduce drug demand.”

Earlier this month, Mizzima reported that the UNODC estimated that 246,000 households are involved in poppy cultivation in Burma, with 91 per cent of opium cultivation occurring in Shan State, according to an article published on its website in May.

It said that opium poppy eradication is a priority of the Burmese government and recent government campaigns have seen a significant increase in the area of poppy crops destroyed.

However, while serving a drug control goal, “this can have disastrous consequences for poppy-farming households which are generally very poor and often in debt,” said the report. “Many grow poppy simply to buy food and other subsistence needs.”

Done without first developing alternative livelihood options, the widespread eradication of poppy can increase food insecurity as households dependent on income from now-destroyed poppy scramble to find other sources of income to feed their families,” said Jason Eligh, the UNODC country manager.

He said the main drivers behind recent increases in opium poppy cultivation are chronic poverty, decreasing rural food security, and regional insecurity due to armed conflict. In 2011, the UNODC started to implement three new alternative development / sustainable livelihoods and food security projects in southern Shan State. Providing assistance directly to opium-dependent communities on the ground, the projects are funded by the European Union and the Government of Germany.
Last Updated ( Friday, 22 February 2013 15:53 )  

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