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Opium Cultivation In Myanmar Dropping Steadily

Opium Cultivation In Myanmar Dropping Steadily, UN Drug Office Reports

Opium cultivation in Myanmar dropped 29 per cent this year compared to 2003, continuing a steady decline that began nearly a decade ago, according to the annual country survey released today by the United Nations anti-drug office.

The Myanmar Opium Survey 2004 reveals that opium cultivation this season is estimated at 44,200 hectares, representing a cumulative decline of 73 per cent when compared to the 163,000 hectares in 1996. Meanwhile, opium production for 2004 totalled 370 tons, a 54 per cent reduction over the previous year.

About 260,000 households – mostly in remote, mountainous and isolated areas – were involved in opium cultivation, often the primary or sole source of income, the survey says. However, the average income of non-opium producing households is 30 per cent higher than opium producing households.

“Opium is a last resort for farmers confronting hunger and poverty,” Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC), told an audience in Brussels. “If we do not provide for the basic human needs of farmers in Myanmar, they will never escape the vicious circle of poverty and opium cultivation. The opium communities will remain vulnerable to human rights abuses, human trafficking and forced relocation.”

The survey also indicates the average farm-gate price of opium has increased by 80 per cent over last year to $234 per kilogram, up from $130 in 2003, reflecting the scarce opium production this season – a possible incentive for farmers to cultivate greater amounts next year.

Mr. Costa recalled that the UN’s key goal in Myanmar is democratization and reconciliation, as well as a national commitment to drug control. “The international donor community carries a responsibility to support this process by providing alternative sources of income to those families in Myanmar whose livelihoods are adversely impacted by the loss of opium-generated revenue,” he said.

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