Satellite Imagery assists Myanmar Opium Survey 2004

Satellite Imagery assists Myanmar Opium Survey 2004

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The UN Information Service, reports that according to the Myanmar Opium Survey 2004, released on 11 October by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) opium cultivation in Myanmar “shows a 29% decline in comparison to 2003 and a cultivation at an estimated 44,200 hectares (ha), representing a significant cumulative decline of 73% when compared to the 163,000 ha in 1996. The survey was carried out jointly by UNODC and the Myanmar Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control. It is based on field-work complemented with satellite imagery. The production of opium for the year 2004 amounted to 370 metric tons, representing a decline of 54% with respect to 2003. The Shan State traditionally has accounted for more than 90% of total opium production in Myanmar.

The survey also indicates the average farm-gate price of opium has increased by 80 per cent over last year’s cost — in 2004 the average cost per kilogram was US$234 as opposed to US$130 recorded in 2003. The increase, a reflection of a scarce opium production this season, could act as an incentive for farmers to cultivate greater amounts next year.

Speaking in Brussels on the occasion of the presentation of the report, UNODC Director Antonio Maria Costa stated that “Factor in a parallel decline in opium cultivation in Laos — 45 per cent in comparison to 2003 — and what we may be seeing, if the decline continues, is a potential end to more than a century of opium production in the Golden Triangle […]. Today Myanmar faces a critical, two-fold challenge. First, the country needs a permanent decline in opium production. At the same time, Myanmar must do everything in its power to head-off the humanitarian disaster threatening opium-growing families who at present live on, or below, the poverty line.”

On the day of the release of the survery, Marco Perduca, Executive Director of the International Antiprohibitionist League said that “these types of studies, which present encouraging improvements in the effort to eradicate ‘narcotic crops’ – but not necessarily heroin -, should be presented honestly and with several caveats, the first of which should be a reminder of how poppy production has grown esponentially in Afghanistan, for example. Moreover, it is particularly discouraging to see that, for the sake of reducing the supply of “drugs”, the United Nations has no problem in collaborating with a regime that is, time and again, chastised by the UN Security Council and Human Rights organizations for being a brutal military dictatorship”.