Afghan opium production hit, Myanmar booms: UN

Last Updated: Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 22:34

United Nations: A plant disease
devastated Afghan opium production last year but Myanmar is
seeing a worrying boom, the UN anti-narcotics agency warned
Thursday.

Global production of cocaine also fell last year
because of reduced coca growing in Colombia, but consumption
in Europe is fast catching up with the United States, the top
world cocaine market, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
said.

Use of so-called "synthetic" drugs such as
methamphetamine also reached a new peak, and UNODC`s annual
report highlighted particular fears about production in
Southeast Asia.

A plant "blight" in Afghanistan, which accounts for
about two thirds of the global area under opium poppy
cultivation, meant that world production declined by 38 per
cent to an estimated 4,860 tonnes, UNODC said.

Afghanistan still accounted for 3,600 tonnes of opium
and UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov said "Afghan opium
production will probably bounce back in 2011." Opium prices
have tripled in the past year, according to UN estimates.
The agency said Myanmar has reemerged as a major
heroin producer.

Cultivation in Myanmar rose by 20 per cent in 2010 and
with Afghanistan`s decline, its share of global opium
production has risen from five per cent in 2007 to 12 per cent
last year, UNODC said.

The opium market is now said to be valued at more than
USD 68 billion a year, with consumers paying an estimated USD
61 billion.

In Afghanistan, one gram of heroin costs less than
four dollars, but UNODC estimated that consumers in west and
central Europe pay USD 40-100 per gram and in the United
States and northern Europe USD 170-200.

In Australia the price was estimated at USD 230-370
per gram.

Despite the huge market value, UNODC estimated that
Afghan farmers earned only USD 440 million from opium growing.

The UN agency said there was "soaring" production and
trafficking of amphetamine-style synthetic drugs in Myanmar
and the rest of Southeast Asia.

"The gains we have witnessed in the traditional drugs
markets are being offset by a fashion for synthetic `designer
drugs` mimicking illegal substances," said Fedotov.

"The Golden Triangle is not just about opium anymore;
it`s a business that caters to consumers."

UNODC said Myanmar was a prime source of amphetamine
pills seizures in Southeast Asia -- with the amount caught in
raids rising by a third in 2009, to 15.8 tonnes.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 22:34

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