Press Releases

    UNIS/NAR/760
    27 August 2002

    OPIUM PRODUCTION IN MYANMAR DECLINES

    "This is a step in the right direction, but new measures are needed and expected,"
    UN drug control office chief says

    VIENNA, 27 AUGUST (UN Information Service) -- The first-ever comprehensive opium poppy survey for Myanmar indicates the production of about 828 metric tons of opium in 2002, which is less than the estimated production in the previous year.

    "This decline is a step in the right direction. There is the evidence that the government is aware of the damage caused to the country by opium cultivation. New measures are needed and expected," said Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), introducing the survey results in Vienna today.

    The Myanmar Opium Survey 2002 is the first in a series of ODCCP surveys on opium cultivation in the three leading opium producing countries in the world. Surveys on Afghanistan and Laos will be released in mid-September.

    Last year, Myanmar was the world’s biggest producer with estimated production of 1097 metric tons. The country still has the largest area under opium poppy cultivation, estimated at 81,400 hectares. However, Afghanistan farmers are producing 30 kilos of opium per hectare compared to only 10 kilos in Myanmar; therefore, it is likely that in 2002 Myanmar will become the world’s second biggest producer of opium, when measured in tons.

    "The international community remains very concerned. The United Nations will continue to monitor illicit activities, including the drugs cultivation. We are also strengthening our investment in alternative development projects," Mr. Costa said.

    ODCCP’s Myanmar survey was a combination of extensive field work on the ground and satellite imagery. More than 150 surveyors visited nearly 2,000 villages and physically measured nearly 6,000 opium fields. The survey, done jointly with the Government of Myanmar, was conducted in the Shan State, in which more than 90 percent of the country’s opium poppy is grown.

    Mr. Sandeep Chawla, Chief of the ODCCP Research Section, presented the detailed survey results, including the finding that about 80,000 people, representing 1.6 percent of the total Myanmar population or 2.4 percent of the population age 15 and above, were smoking opium on a daily basis.

    Based on the farm gate price of opium -- averaging US$151 per kilo -- the total farm gate value of opium in Myanmar in 2002 is estimated at about US$125 million.

    From 1976 to 1990, the UN Drug Control Programme together with the international community invested about US$100 million in agriculture, treatment and education of drug addicts, diversification of cultures, and livestock breeding and law enforcement. Between 1990-96, activities were sharply reduced and have started to pick up since then. At present, ODCCP is focusing on advocacy, supply reduction and prevention.

    In particular, the Office is implementing Wa Alternative Development Project in Myanmar which resulted -- last year -- in increased rice production, livestock development, new tea plantations and nurseries, health services including child immunization and HIV/AIDS awareness, safe water supply to 1,500 persons, road maintenance and improvement and assistance to 11 primary schools. There is a need for increased donor support in order to help the region fulfill its commitment to elimination of opium poppy by 2005.

    * *** *