Afghan opium production hit, Myanmar booms: UN
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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.


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

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