Cultivation of the opium poppy and opium production in Yugoslavia


Origin of the Cultivation


Author: Vladimir Kušvíé
Pages: 5 to 13
Creation Date: 1960/01/01

Cultivation of the opium poppy and opium production in Yugoslavia

Vladimir Kušvíé Director, Institute for the Control of Drugs, Zagreb (Yugoslavia)

Origin of the Cultivation

The opium poppy is not originally a Yugoslav plant. It was not until the nineteenth century that the Turks brought it into Macedonia, which was then under Turkish rule. Information on the origin of the crop is unreliable; it is only certain that cultivation on a large scale existed already about 1850. When it was found that the plant flourished, it soon became one of the most important crops in Macedonia. [ 1]

The Plant

As in many other central European countries, the blue or black poppy, Papaver somniferum var. nigrum, a plant with violet flowers, dark blue to black seeds and open capsules, is grown in the northern part of Yugoslavia (Autonomous Region of Vojvodina and the People's Republic of Croatia). However, opium has never been obtained from this plant in Yugoslavia except at an experimental level, and its use for this purpose has not been sufficiently tested.

In the opium-producing districts of Yugoslavia, the "white poppy" is used almost exclusively for obtaining opium. The "white poppy" is a plant which has predominantly white flowers, nearly white or pale coloured seeds and closed capsules. It is mainly Papaver somniferum var. album, although not a pure strain of this plant, which is very seldom found, but a cross with the violet-grey species. [ 2] The flowers are usually white or pale grey, with the lower part pale violet.

Individual plants with violet flowers may often be seen in fields of flowering poppy. Some cultivators eliminate such plants, because they consider that they yield weaker opium and less oil.

Such weeding out was tried for two years, first at the District Experimental Station at Kavadarci, and then over larger areas sown with seeds obtained from plants with violet flowers. Early results showed that they did not fall short of plants with white flowers and that the widely spread rumour of their poor quality was unfounded.

It should be borne in mind that this poppy with violet flowers differs from the aforementioned blue-black poppy cultivated in the northern areas of the country, and that, morphologically speaking, it is similar to the white opium poppy. In the Kocani area, there seems to exist another type of poppy with dark-coloured flowers which is characterized by a smaller number of stamens. [ 3]

Attempts to transfer the Macedonian poppy to other districts of Yugoslavia and to other countries have not been successful. Plants grown from the best Macedonian seed have yielded opium of a weaker quality than they did in Macedonia.

Area of Cultivation

The opium poppy is grown in the central and eastern part of the People's Republic of Macedonia, mainly in the valley of the Vardar river, between the southern frontier with Greece and 42° 14' northern latitude. The cultivation is found in five of the seven districts of the People's Republic of Macedonia - namely, Bitola, Kumanovo, Skopje, Štip and Titov Veles.

Cultivation is most intensive in the Štip and Titov Veles districts, which usually produce more than 80 per cent of the Yugoslav output.

Basic Conditions of Cultivation

Climate. - Climate is a highly important factor among the conditions of cultivation. The climatic conditions of the People's Republic of Macedonia are suitable for growing the opium poppy. These are a mild and damp winter, sometimes with a covering of snow, and a rapid transition to a very hot and dry summer.

Although this crop is destroyed by dry winters without snow, the plant can withstand temperatures as low as - 5°C for short periods. A protective layer of snow is a very favourable factor, and in those conditions it can withstand a temperature of - 10°C. Spring frosts are very dangerous because they can destroy the young plants.

At the beginning, the plants need a great deal of moisture in order to take root and develop properly, but at the end of their period of growth they need hot and dry weather; in such weather the alkaloid content increases.

The annual rainfall in the opium region of Yugoslavia is between 380 and 650 mm, while Ovce Polje (Štip) and Tikveš (Kavadarci) have an average of less than 450 mm. Nevertheless, these are the districts which produce opium of particularly high quality. [ 4]

Wind presents a grave danger to the opium poppy before and during the incision of the capsule. Before the incision, a strong and warm wind is liable to dry the stems and capsules, so that they yield little latex. At the time of the incision of the capsules wind is dangerous because it causes them to knock against each other, so that the latex is lost or smeared over the capsules and therefore cannot be gathered.

Soil. - The plant does not need especially good soil and can grow on ground which is unsuitable for most other crops; however, it thrives better in manured, crumbly and light soil, exposed to the sun and protected from northern winds. Heavy and clayey soil, as well as waterlogged soil, are not suitable. Waterlogged soil yields unduly thin latex, which gradually trickles down the capsule.

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Map of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia and the People's Republic of MaCEDONIA

The soil is usually enriched with horse and cattle manure and the manure of small domestic animals; of late, fertilizers have been used (up to 300 kg of nitrogenous fertilizer and up to 700 kg of superphosphate per hectare). The fertilized soil often yields more than twice the amount of seeds, oil and opium than unfertilized ground. The composition of the soil is an essential factor on which the morphine content depends. [ 5] The ground to be sown must be very carefully harrowed.

If all other conditions are fulfilled, the poppy flourishes best at altitudes not greatly above sea-level. Most of the cultivation is at less than 500 metres above sea-level and seldom as high as 800 metres.

Of the most important Yugoslav opium centres, Gevgelija is the lowest above sea-level (57 metres) and Ko cani the highest (400 metres).

The Fruit

The fruit is a roundish or oval hollow capsule, 2.5 to 5 cm in diameter. On the upper part of the fruit, there is a radiate sear, remains of stigma, usually with 10 to 14 sides. The pedicle is short and is attached to the stem by a small bulging ring. The unripe pericarp is grey-green or blue-green in colour, while the ripe pericarp is yellowish.

The Seed

The seeds are obtained from selected, well-developed capsules. There are cultivators who leave some capsules uncut and take the seeds from them when they are quite ripe, because they believe that seeds from incised capsules are less likely to germinate. [ 6] This practice is now becoming rather rare.

Seeds vary greatly in colour, from greyish white to light brown. In selecting seeds for sowing, no attention is paid to their colour or shade.

It has not been ascertained whether differences in the colour of seeds have any effect on the quantity or quality of opium.

The Processes of Plant Cultivation and Collecting Opium

The opium poppy is usually sown in the second half of September in two to four furrows, generally after the first autumn rains, which moisten the earth and promote proper germination.

In spite of the risk of a hard winter and spring frost to which autumn cultivation is exposed, spring sowing is rare and is in general resorted to only when autumn crops are destroyed during the winter. Spring sowing does not give such a large or good yield as autumn sowing. The long period of vegetation promotes the formation of alkaloids and, moreover, the spring crop may not develop sufficiently before the dry period and may wither without yielding either opium or seeds.

Spring sowing is carried out in the first fine days of the year, usually in the second half of February or the first half of March.

The seeds are very small, and are difficult to sow evenly. For this reason, in some places they are mixed with sand (2 to 4 kg of sand per kg of seed). Sowing with a seeder is carried out usually in rows at intervals of 30 to 40 cm. The earth is harrowed, so that the seeds are sown 1 or 2 cm deep. From 6 to 10 kg of seed are used to sow one hectare.

The spring operations are usually carried out in the second half of February and consist of pulling up grass and weeds, thinning (so that one plant should be approximately 10 cm away from the next) and banking up with earth. A second banking-up operation is usually carried out in the first half of March.

At the beginning of May, the fields become white with the flowering poppy, and when the flowers fall off, the capsules develop. Each plant yields from five to eight capsules.

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The incised capsules

The incisions are made before the capsules are quite ripe, ten to fifteen days after the flowers fall off, at the end of May or the beginning of June. The best time for making the incisions is determined by the colour and hardness of the capsules and by the appearance of a blue-brown ring at the bottom of the capsule. The period during which the capsules can be incised and the latex successfully collected does not exceed four to six days. If the right moment is missed, the capsules take on a yellowish shade and give less latex, finally yielding nothing at all.

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Knives and tools for the incision of the capsules

Cutting is usually done between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., with a horizontal incision which covers about three-quarters of the capsule. A quarter of the capsule is always left uncut, to allow a further circulation of nutritious substances at the top of the capsule. Small drops of white, milky juice then begin to flow from the incision, and exposed to the air solidify and grow darker.

The incision must be neither too shallow nor too deep. If it is too shallow, the number of latex vessels affected may be too small and too little juice will drip out; if the incision is too deep, so that the capsule is entirely cut through, the latex will flow into the capsule and the whole yield will be lost.

The incisions are made with special knives or with special tools, consisting of wooden handles fitted with sharp pieces of iron (often razor blades). The size of the blade automatically regulates the depth of the incision. Tools with two or more blades are also used, to allow two or three cuts with a single motion. As soon as the incision is made, the latex begins to drip. In order to avoid brushing against the capsules, the harvesters making incisions must walk backwards.

Unlike the procedure in certain Far Eastern countries the incisions are never repeated. *

At dawn the following day, the gathering of the raw opium begins; this consists of collecting the solidified drops of latex which have gathered overnight around the incision in the capsule. The opium is stripped from the capsule with a special blunt knife and is collected in a conical vessel attached to the harvester's belt or into a rumex or poppy leaf. It is then kneaded until it becomes dark, dried for a short time and thereupon is formed into 500- to 1.000-g cakes. That is the form in which it is delivered by the producers.

It has been proved that two, three or more incisions yield more opium, but each subsequent incision produces opium with a lower morphine content. In countries which used to supply the opium smoking market, manifold incisions of the capsules were profitable, since more opium could thus be obtained. This opium is at the same time more suitable for smoking because of its lower morphine content. Yugoslav opium has an unpleasant taste and a high morphine content and has therefore never been in demand on the smokers' market nor exported for this purpose. It is intended only for the Western market, where morphine content is in demand. Accordingly, manifold incision of capsules is not profitable. The fact that the capsules are cut only once accounts for the considerably greater output of opium per hectare in Far Eastern countries than in Yugoslavia.

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Vessel for collecting raw opium

Between 0.02 and 0.05 g of opium are obtained from each capsule. The output per hectare varies between 4 and 15 kg, according to the place and year.

Raw opium contains from 25% to 35% moisture, and the "Bilka" enterprise, which is the only one authorized to purchase opium, subjects it to further drying and standardization in preparation for the domestic trade and export.

About three weeks after the opium harvest, the plant becomes fully ripe and the capsules are collected and broken up for the seeds, which are used to manufacture oil. Between 300 and 400 kg of seeds are obtained per hectare, according to the place and year. 100 kg of seed usually yields from 45 to 48 kg of edible oil.

Advantages and Risks of Cultivation

The cultivation of the opium poppy is highly profitable and, at the same time, very risky for the producer. One advantage is that nearly the whole plant can be used. Opium and poppy seeds are commodities for which there is always a market. The relatively high value of these products in relation to their volume is a highly favourable factor for producers in parts of the country with poor communications. Continuous contact with the outlet, which is essential, for example, in market gardening, is not required in this case, and opium can be kept for a long time without any danger of deterioration in quality (storage leads to a decrease in the moisture, but the amount of morphine remains unchanged). The seed cakes left after the oil has been extracted are used as cattle food, the dry capsules are sold as raw material for the production of alkaloids and the remaining straw is used as litter and as fuel to replace wood (a large proportion of the opium region is poor in timber). The relatively quick growth of the plant often makes it possible to use the soil for yet another crop in the same season, while the early harvesting of opium gives the producer his first income of the year. The main cultivation operations take place at a time when no other agricultural work has to be done. Finally, some kinds of soil are suitable only for cultivating the opium poppy and yield considerably less of any other crop.

On the other hand, this is one of the agricultural crops exposed to the greatest risks, which persist throughout the growing period of the plant.

Sowing takes place in the autumn, after the first autumn rains moisten the earth. If these rains fall too late, the plant is insufficiently developed by the winter, and is therefore sensitive to cold and may be destroyed even in a mild winter. Another risk of crop failure is that of a hard winter, especially without snow. An unduly mild winter is also unsuitable, for the plants can develop too fast and the opium gathering period may occur too early, when rains are more frequent. A wet spring can promote the development of plant diseases to which the poppy is very sensitive and too much moisture in the ground makes the latex too thin and causes it to trickle out of the capsule on to the ground after incision. The chief danger of the producer, however, is rain at the time of the harvest, as the harvest can be potsponed for only a few days. Rain during the night following the incising of the capsules may entirely wash away the drops of latex and completely destroy the crop. Even dew can cause serious damage at that period.

In the case of spring cultivation, there is the further risk of dry weather setting in before the plants are sufficiently developed, so that they may wither without yielding either opium or seeds.

The opium poppy is one of the most intensive agricultural cultivations and requires a great deal of manpower; the poppy needs constant care throughout its period of growth. Approximately 30 days of team work and 260 manpower days (including collection of opium and seeds) are required to cultivate one hectare. [ 7] It should also be borne in mind that the incision of the capsules and collection of the opium are operations requiring many specially trained workers in the relatively short period suitable for the harvest. A shortage of specialized labour at harvest-time is yet another risk to which the cultivation of the opium poppy is exposed.The hazards of opium poppy cultivation may best be seen from table 1.


Opium production in Macedonia, 1929-1937

Area in hectares
% of sown area harvested
Sown With poppy
Opium kg
Seed kg
1929 5 528 1 622 29 9 820 636
1930 14 110 12 048 91 70 410 16 526
1931 10 913 8 690 80 58 730 10 649
1932 4 009 569 14 2 500 445
1933 5 343 4 251 80 26 360 7 472
1934 6 476 5 858 91 44 390 10 463
1935 8 035 7 456 93 60 620 10 380
1936 8 973 7 826 87 63 220 20 795
1937 8 310 7 430 89 62 200 25 406
7 966 6 196 78 44 250 11 419

It may be noted that in 1935 93%, whereas in 1932 not more than 14% of the sown area was harvested. While 70,410 kg were produced in 1930, only 2,500 kg were produced in 1932.

The mechanization of agriculture cannot make the production of opium much cheaper. Apart from ploughing, sowing and winnowing the seeds (with ploughs, seeders and winnowers) the remaining operations can be performed only by human hand. Labour takes up from 80 to 90 per cent of the production costs. [ 9]

From above it is evident that opium is not suitable for large state or co-operative farms, using modern agricultural techniques, nor for large areas in general. However, the opium poppy is being cultivated also on state and co-operative farms, but over, relatively small areas, as well as on individual farms.

From 1948 to 1957, the following areas of Yugoslavia were sown with poppy (average areas are given). [ 10]

On state farms
On co-operative farms
On private farms


General provisions on control over the production, manufacture and processing of and trade in narcotic drugs are contained in the Act on Narcotic Drugs of 23 January 1950.

Raw opium may be produced only in authorized areas. Every year, each producing district announces the total areas sown with opium poppy, on the basis of production authorization issued to the producers.

The producers may be state farms, co-operative and individual rural households.

In any given year, the producers are bound to turn over the total amount of raw opium they have produced to the "Bilka" enterprise at Skopje, which alone is authorized to purchase it. Any producer who does not do so or who sells raw opium to unauthorized persons is liable to criminal prosecution.

Control over sown areas and the quantities of raw opium put up for sale is effected by the local authorities, who, surveying the sown areas, can also estimate the amount of opium obtained, although it varies widely from one district to another according to weather conditions. The fact that a large number of people, mostly neighbours and local inhabitants, must take part in incising the capsules and collecting the opium makes it much more difficult to conceal the opium obtained.

Every year before sowing, the producers may make an agreement with "Bilka" in advance, for an interest-free loan in fertilizers or in cash, on condition that the loan will be converted when the crop is purchased. Moreover, the purchase price is guaranteed in advance for the producers, expressed in morphine units.

This compulsory purchase is effected at different times in different places. The day when opium is to be purchased at a given place is announced in advance. The purchase is carried out by a commission consisting of three members, one of them an expert of "Bilka" and another a representative of the local authorities.

Should the judgement of the producer and of the commission or one member of the commission concerning the quality of the opium (morphine content) fail to coincide, either side is entitled to ask that a chemical analysis should be made. The cost of the analysis is borne by the side whose appraisal is proved to be wrong.

Experts can estimate the morphine content with reasonable accuracy. According to the charateristics of opium in individual districts and according to its consistency, colour, smell and even taste (bitterness), they can make estimates which in the majority of cases differ from the chemical analysis by less than 1%. Experience has shown, however, that even they can make considerable errors; no estimate whatsoever can be regarded as absolutely reliable.

"Bilka" exports opium and supplies it to wholesale pharmaceutical firms and to the only Yugoslav alkaloid factory, "Alkaloid ", at Skopje. "Alkaloid" exports alkaloids and supplies them to wholesale pharmaceutical firms.

All commercial firms and factories authorized to deal in narcotic drugs, as well as pharmacies and hospitals, have to keep special registers of their trade in narcotic drugs. Delivery vouchers, doctors' prescriptions and hospital vouchers (for hospitals and pharmacies) serve as the documents on the basis of which the register of narcotic drugs is kept. The register has numbered pages, and is controlled and stamped by the authorities, who affix the control ribbon and seal which make it impossible to alter the entries.

The control system is greatly facilitated by the fact that there are no private trade enterprises or factories in Yugoslavia and no private pharmacies and health institutions.

Within the Federal Administration for Pharmaceutical Service and Medical Supplies there is a Commission on Narcotic Drugs, consisting of the representatives of federal institutions interested in the problem of opium and narcotic drugs. The Commission's task is to co-ordinate the work of the interested departments by enforcing the provisions of the Act on Narcotic Drugs, applying laws and regulations on narcotic drugs and carrying out the obligations arising from conventions and other international instruments.

Within the Committee for Foreign Trade there is an Opium Office which controls the import and export of narcotic drugs and issues import and export licences.


Yugoslav opium is put on the market in the form of hard bricks, 2 to 2.5 cm thick, 6 to 7.5 cm wide and 18 to 20 cm long, packed in cases lined with tinplate. Each brick bears the print of a thrice-incised poppy capsule and the inscription "Bilka ", Jugoslavija (see figure 5).

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Trade mark printed on each piece of opium-brick

The opium is granulous when broken, dark reddish-brown in colour, with a characteristic smell and an acrid, unpleasant and very bitter taste.

Under the microscope very few plant particles can be seen (particles of capsule and leaf) and under the polarizing microscope a preponderance of small crystals, with a few square grains and sometimes a few rods are visible. [ 11] The opium is similar to Turkish opium in microscopic appearance.

Yugoslav opium has the highest morphine content in the world. [ 12] . The morphine content calculated in dehydrated opium is more or less constant and varies between 15.9% and 17.2% . [ 13] Analytical data on the content of other important alkaloids are scanty; however, the analyses of various laboratories have shown contents of 0.9 to 1.6 per cent of codeine, 9 to 7 per cent of narcotine, 0.7 to 1.7 per cent of thebaine and 1.2 to 3.3 per cent of papaverine. [ 14]

The most characteristic property which distinguishes Yugoslav opium from other opiums is its typical ultra-violet absorption spectrum. [ 15] This property is mostly attributed to a constant ratio between the content of thebaine and papaverine in this opium. According to the ratio between these two alkaloids, Yugoslav export (Macedonian) opium, unlike the majority of the Asian types, distinctly falls into the papaverine type. Similar results (to a certain extent) are obtained in the case of Greek opium and some Turkish types. It is interesting to note that the opium which has been grown on an experimental basis in northern Croatia is quite different [ 16] and belongs to the thebaine type.

Another characteristic is the composition of the ash content. [ 17]

It has also been found that the quantity of yellow pigment in Yugoslav opium increases constantly and steadily as it grows older, a fact which can be used as an approximate assessment of its age. [ 18]

Poppy capsules

In recent years, poppy capsules (together with poppy straw) have gradually been replacing opium as raw materials for the production of alkaloids. Dried and crushed capsules are mainly used, together with approximately 10 cm of the stem under the capsule.

In suitable soil, the highest morphine content is found in ripe capsules, while in poor soil it is found in capsules which are not quite ripe. [ 5] The highest morphine content (1.25%) is found in capsules from the neighbourhood of Kavadarci [ 5] , while the content found in other parts of Macedonia varies between 0.47% and 1.05% . [ 19]

The morphine content of incised capsules from which the opium has been taken is 40% to 60% less than that of unincised ones.

The stems 10 cm from the top have a morphine content of 50% to 70% less than the capsule, although in some cases it has been found to be the same as that of the capsule. [ 5]


As already stated, the cultivation of the opium poppy is extremely intensive and labour represents between 80% and 90% of the production costs. Accordingly, in the period before the Second World War, a clear distinction could be made between two categories of producer. One of these categories consisted of town dwellers (contractors, landowners, tradesmen, traders, etc.) who cultivated the opium poppy on land owned or rented by them, using hired labour for all the operations.

When labour was relatively cheap, this form of production was in most cases profitable. However, in periods when the price of opium on the world market fell considerably, these producers used to abandon opium cultivation and turn to other profitable but less risky crops.

Thus, for example, the vertiginous fall in prices in 1930 and 1931 (between January 1930 and December 1931, the world prices of opium fell to one-sixth), led to a decrease in the area sown from 14,110 hectares (1930) and 10,913 hectares (1931) to 4,009 hectares in 1932. After this crash, the producers' confidence in this crop returned very slowly, which will be seen from the gradual increase of sown areas to some 5,000, 6,000 and 8,000 hectares in the following five years (see table 1).

The second category of producers consisted and still consists of rural small-holders, owning very small plots of land worked by their own labour and that of members of their household. Since these small undertakings do not use or use very little hired labour, their production costs are quite differently distributed. The cost of labour does not mean much to them: it is far more important to be able to use household labour at a time when there are usually no other operations to be performed on the land. Moreover, such farmers are often tied to opium poppy cultivation by the fact that their land would yield much less of any other type of crop. These are producers who therefore remain faithful to the opium poppy and on whom fluctuations of world prices have considerably less effect.

The large-scale public works which were undertaken in the People's Republic of Macedonia in the post-war years (hydro-electric power stations, roads, factories), the industrialization of the country, mechanization and certain technical measures in agriculture have resulted in a gradual rise in the standard of living and consequently in a rise in the cost of labour. As labour is a predominant factor in production costs, the new conditions do not promote the development of opium production. Mechanization, irrigation and other technical measures in agriculture have made some other crops more profitable and have made it possible to cultivate other areas which were hitherto suitable for the opium poppy only. The large-scale public works have attracted a considerable amount of labour from the country and have concentrated it near the building sites, while the industrialization of the country is gradually turning villagers, especially the poor ones, into industrial workers. In some villages this has led to a decrease in the skilled labour which is essential at the time of the cutting of the capsules and collection of the opium, so that over considerable areas the capsules remained unincised and no opium was obtained, or the incisions were made by unskilled labour, which resulted in a decrease of the yield.

In its history, Macedonia has often been the scene of armed conflicts during which the value of money fell overnight. Opium, on the other hand, has always been a stable "currency", the real value of which remains constant. Macedonian villagers therefore got into the habit of keeping opium as a "gold reserve" which is sold only in case of need. Thus it became a tradition among the villagers to keep opium for ten or more years as a dowry for their daughters.

This old custom of keeping opium instead of money was resumed during the Second World War and the occupation period. Opium became again the only stable currency. No serious control measures were undertaken and the opium was kept in the houses of many of the producers. After the liberation of the country measures were again taken on the basis of the Act of December 1938 for selling all the opium produced through one enterprise. These measures, which were further strengthened by the Act on Narcotic Drugs of 23 January 1950, have been most positive from the point of view of suppression of illicit traffic, but have decreased the interest of producers in cultivating opium. As a result of these measures, opium has ceased to be the household "gold reserve".

In addition, the loss of the 1949 crop as the result of bad weather (only 540 kg of opium was obtained from the 7,000 hectares sown) and the favourable prices of certain other crops (e.g., tobacco) in post-war years make it even easier to understand the falling off of interest in opium production.

Whereas the sown area before the war was about 8,000 hectares, yielding approximately 45 tons of opium (see table 1), the area over the last five years has been approximately 5,000 hectares, yielding about 25 tons of opium (see table 2).


Opium production in the People's Republic of Macedonia, 1955-1959

Year Sown
Area in thousands of hectares Harvested
Total in tons
Opium yield kg per hectare
1955 4.9 4.7 26.9 5.7
1956 5.1 4.7 27.9 5.9
1957 5.4 2.2 15.4 7.0
1958 5.0 2.0 18.4 9.2
1959 *
4.2 4.1 31.9 7.9
4.9 3.5 24.1 7.1

The 1959 data of the statistical office of the People's Republic of Macedonia were collected before the completion of the harvest and cannot be considered final.

Although opium production is very likely to increase gradually, because producers are overcoming the aforementioned difficulties, there is little prospect that production will reach the pre-war level, since the basic condition, excess of cheap labour, is lacking.

With regard to the area sown, however, there is every prospect that it will increase considerably, not for the collection of opium, but for obtaining poppy capsules as raw material for the extraction of alkaloids.

While opium production is closely connected with a poor rural economy, the cultivation of the opium poppy for obtaining capsules is suitable for large state and co-operative farms. If the opium is not collected it is possible to sow the plants more thickly and to use mechanical methods of cultivating and harvesting, which will lead to a considerable rationalization of production. Some first steps in this direction are being contemplated.


Drug addiction does not exist as a social problem in Yugoslavia. It is limited to a very small number of people in the large towns, mostly intellectuals and health staff who have lived abroad and have become addicts, as well as people to whom the former have directly or indirectly transmitted this evil habit. More cases of drug addiction have been registered in the northern part of the country (Zagreb, Belgrade) than in Macedonia.

Drug addiction is practically unknown among the producers themselves. Some of them know that medicines are made from opium, while some others only know that it is a product which can always be sold.

There are old people who remember cases of "opium eating ", not among the direct producers, but among land-owners and dealers in opium.

It is difficult to explain the fact that in a country where the cultivation of the opium poppy is a centuries-old tradition there is no drug addiction among the direct producers. This may be explained by the fact that the poor Macedonian peasant has always been in the habit of sending the best and costliest products of his land to the market and keeping only the worst and the cheapest for himself. On the other hand, although the level of living of the Macedonian peasant has always been low by European standards, it has never been so low as to force him to seek an escape from his complete misery in drug addiction, as is often the case in certain Asian countries.


  1. 001

    NIKOLIC D.: Problem opiuma u svetu i kod nas, Nova trgovina, No. 10, p. 592, 1954.

  2. 002

    VRGOC A.: Macedonski opij, Vjesnik ljekarnika, Nos. 1 and 2, pp. 55 and 125, 1928.

  3. 003

    GEORGIEVSKI M.: Afion. Bilten na Farmacevtskoto drustvo na N.R.M., Nos. 1-2, p. 4, 1959.

  4. 004

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  5. 005

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  7. 007

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  8. 008

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  9. 009

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  10. 010

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  11. 011

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  12. 012

    BENSUSSAN I.: L'Opium. Pub. Vigot Frcres, Paris,·1946, p. 160.

  13. 013

    See 4, p. 49.

  14. 014

    Tabulation of Results of Physical and Chemical Analyses of Authenticated Opium Samples. United Nations document ST/SOA/SER.K/41.

  15. 015

    GRLIC Lj.: Determination of the Origin of Opium by means of Ultraviolet Absorption Spectrophotometry, II and III. Acta Pharmaceutica Jugolavica, No. 7, p. 199, 1957 and No. 9, p. 103, 1959. United Nations documents ST/SOA/SER.K/54 and 75.

  16. 016

    GRLIC Lj. & PETRISIC J.: Determination of the Origin of Opium by means of Ultraviolet Absorption Spectrophotometry, I. Farmaceutski glasnik, No. 12, p. 487, 1956. United Nations document ST/ SOA/SER.K/48.

  17. 017

    BARTLET J. C. & FARMILO C.: The Determination of Countries of Origin of Opium Samples by means of the Composition of the Opium Ash. United Nations document ST/SOA/SER. K/30.

  18. 018

    PETRISIC J., & GRLIC Lj.: On the Possibilities of Estimating the Approximate Age of Macedonian Opium by means of a Simple Colour Test. United Nations document ST/SOA/SER.K/78.

  19. 019

    See 5, pp. 17-21.