Press Releases

    UNIS/NAR/850
    9 July 2004

    Laos Reduces Its Opium Poppy Cultivation by Half in One Season

    VIENNA, 9 July (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations has confirmed that the Lao PDR opium cultivation in 2004 shows a 45 per cent decline in comparison  to 2003. This  translates into an impressive cumulative decline of 75 per cent since 1998. Opium cultivation is estimated at 6,600 hectares in 2004 against 12,000 hectares in 2003. The production of opium is estimated at 43 metric tonnes, with an overall reduction with respect to 2003 of over 64 per cent.

    “Together with the parallel decline in opium cultivation in Myanmar, this historical achievement if sustained, will end more than a century of opium production in the Golden Triangle”, said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), while paying tribute to the Laotian Government at the launch of the Laos Opium Survey in Vientiane today. The survey will also be launched in a simultaneous event in Bangkok, Thailand, by the UNODC Regional Field Office.

    The survey also reveals that the average farm-gate price of opium has increased by 27 per cent compared with the previous season. The increase reflects the scarcity of opium produced this season and could present an incentive for farmers to cultivate opium next year. Mr. Costa called on the international community to assist farmers in Laos, who are now giving up their income from opium,  with sustainable alternative sources of livelihood. “In many areas, opium elimination has been achieved without farmers having the opportunity to develop other sources of income.  Although the opium growers in fact never derived a great deal from this crop, the cash from selling opium was important for farmers living on, or below, the poverty line,”  he added. For opium-growing households in Laos, the average annual Gross Domestic Product per capita is US$62 compared with US$309 per capita for the country as a whole.

    The numbers of households cultivating opium has declined by 43 per cent compared to the previous year. In 2004 however, 22,800 households will continue to derive a significant share of their income from the opium harvested.

    “We have the collective responsibility to ensure that the poorest of the poor are not the ones who pay the price for successes in drug control. A large number of people have been displaced by drug control initiatives. Extending a compassionate hand to destitute farmers is also a condition for ensuring the sustainability of the elimination of opium production in Laos. I therefore urge donor countries and development agencies to join forces with us to make this drug control success a humanitarian one as well,” concluded Mr. Costa

    This survey  was jointly carried out by UNODC (www.unodc.org) and the Government of the Lao PDR, based on field work complemented with satellite imagery. The results of the survey for Myanmar will be released later this summer.

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