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18 June 2003


Decline of Opium Cultivation in the "Golden Triangle"

VIENNA, 18 June (UN Information Service) -- The Myanmar and Lao PDR Opium Surveys for 2003 confirm the downward trend in opium cultivation in the "Golden Triangle" (which also includes Thailand). The surveys show a 24 per cent decline for Myanmar and a 15 per cent decline for Lao PDR in comparison to 2002. Opium poppy cultivation is estimated at 62,200 hectares in Myanmar in 2003 against 81,400 hectares in 2002, and at 12,000 hectares in Lao PDR in 2003 against 14,100 hectares in 2002. Potential opium production in Myanmar is estimated at 810 metric tons against 828 metric tons in 2002.

"The vicious linkage between opium and poverty is being broken. Until recently the elimination of opium cultivation in the "Golden Triangle" would have been considered impossible. It is now within reach. However, countries need assistance to sustain legal activities and alternative crops. With the support of the international community, an important and painful chapter of world drug history is coming to an end " Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said today at the launch of the surveys in New York.

Although their numbers are declining, over 350,000 households in Myanmar and 40,000 in Lao PDR will continue to derive the largest share of their income from the opium harvested (an estimated 810 metric tons in Myanmar and 120 metric tons in Lao PDR). To sustain these declines alternative development programmes for farmers are required.

Myanmar and Lao PDR's significant achievements in 2003, together with the marginal level of the harvest in Thailand and Vietnam, have reduced opium cultivation in Southeast Asia by 60 per cent since 1996.

Opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar and Laos 1996-2003 in hectares

Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Myanmar 163,000 155,150 130,300 89,500 108,700 105,000 81,400 62,200
Laos 21,600 24,100 26,800 22,500 19,000 17,300 14,100 12,000
Total  184,600 179,250 157,100 112,000 127,700 122,300 95,500 74,200

The Myanmar and Lao PDR annual opium surveys are part of the UNODC Illicit Crop Monitoring Programme (ICMP), which currently covers six countries where most of the world's coca and opium poppy cultivation takes place: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Peru. This year the programme is also launching a first survey of cannabis cultivation in Morocco.

Myanmar is the world's second largest supplier of opium and heroin after Afghanistan, with the Shan State representing more than 90 per cent of the total opium poppy cultivation in the country. Lao PDR is the third largest opium producer in the world.

A similar opium survey for Afghanistan is ongoing and will be released next October. According to last year's survey (2002), Afghanistan's opium production amounted to 3,400 metric tons.

southeast asia opium poppy cultivation 1990-2003

These comprehensive surveys are jointly carried out by UNODC and the governments concerned and make extensive use of satellite imagery and field verification.

Lao PDR Opium Survey 2003
Myanmar Opium Survey 2003

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