World’s new top opium producer revealed

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Myanmar has seen significant rise in poppy farming as cultivation in Afghanistan declines, according to the UN

Myanmar has become the world’s largest center of opium production in 2023, having overtaken Afghanistan, a new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has found.

Released on Tuesday, the UN publication reports that from 2022 to 2023 production of the illicit crop in Myanmar increased by 18% to a total of 47,100 hectares under cultivation.

“The economic, security and governance disruptions that followed the military takeover of February 2021 continue to drive farmers in remote areas towards opium to make a living,” UNODC Regional Representative Jeremy Douglas said. “The intensification of conflict in [the northern state of] Shan and other border areas is expected to accelerate this trend,” he noted.

According to UNODC, opium cultivation areas expanded most in Myanmar’s border regions in northern Shan state, which borders China, Laos and Thailand. Chin and Kachin states followed, as yield expanded by 16% to 22.9 kilograms per hectare, reportedly due to more sophisticated farming practices.

In total Myanmar farmers earned around 75% more this year from opium poppy farming, according to the report, as average prices paid for the crop have reached about $355 per kilogram.

Myanmar’s rise in opium production comes as output in Afghanistan plummeted an estimated 95% to around 330 tons following the Taliban’s ban on poppy cultivation last April. Afghanistan was previously the world’s top opium producer, providing over 80% of global supply, and a major source of heroin both in Europe and Asia.

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