1 November 2005

Opium Cultivation in Myanmar Falls again in 2005 but UNODC Executive Director Concerned about Poverty among Farmers

VIENNA, 31 October (UN Information Service) - Opium cultivation in Myanmar, the world's second largest producer, fell by more than a quarter in 2005, compared with 2004, and is now 80 per cent lower than in the peak year of 1996, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports.

UNODC's 2005 Myanmar Opium Survey shows that the area under opium cultivation was 32,800 hectares in 2005, down from 44,200 hectares in 2004, while the number of families involved in growing opium declined by 26 per cent to 193,000.

UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa welcomed the decline in cultivation but warned that the rapid progress in eradication seen in the past decade could be undone if the growing problem of poverty and under-nourishment among farmers was not addressed.

"Some of the poorest people are being affected by the loss of income from drugs as cultivation declines," said Mr. Costa. "With the loss of opium income, poor farmers and their families not only lose their coping mechanism to deal with endemic poverty and a chronic food shortage, they also lose access to health services and to schools. They end up very vulnerable to exploitation and misery -- from human rights abuses to enforce the opium bans, to internal displacement or human trafficking to survive the bans."

"The world will not condone counter-narcotic measures that result in humanitarian disasters," the UNODC Executive Director added.  "The international community must have the wisdom to fight drugs and poverty simultaneously, to eliminate both the causes and the effects of these twin afflictions. Food security and income generation programmes must remain in place in Myanmar and be strengthened to support both the farmers' decisions not to plant opium and enforcement measures to eradicate opium that is planted against the law."

The 2005 Myanmar Opium Survey, conducted jointly by the Government of Myanmar and UNODC, within the framework of the UNODC Illicit Crop Monitoring Programme, was based on a combination of the use of satellite images and ground verification. It focused on Shan State, part of the notorious Golden Triangle, where 94 per cent of the country's opium poppy cultivation takes place.

Myanmar remains the second largest opium grower in the world after Afghanistan but its share of world opium poppy cultivation fell to 21 per cent in 2005 from 23 per cent in 2004. The average farm gate price of opium at harvest time was estimated at US$187 per kg in 2005, a 22 per cent increase on the US$153 reported in 2004.

Myanmar's total potential opium production in 2005 was estimated at 312 metric tons, down from 370 in 2004 and compared with the 1996 peak of 1,760 tons. The farm-gate value of opium production this year was estimated at US$58 million, equivalent to about 0.7 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.


The full report can be viewed at

For further information please contact:

Richard Murphy
Chief, Advocacy Section, UNODC
Telephone: +43 1 26060 5761
E-mail:  richard.murphy@unodc.org