The poppy harvest: Burma's boom industry

Efforts to curb the rise in opium production are being undermined by ethnic conflicts

Ongoing ethnic conflicts in Burma are undermining efforts to tackle opium poppy production in the country, which has recorded its sixth consecutive increase in cultivation. The latest finding from the UN suggests claims by the Burmese authorities that cultivation will be eradicated within two years will prove false.

Although unprecedented efforts to destroy poppy fields resulted in almost 60,000 acres being ripped up last year, the amount of land under cultivation still increased by around 17 per cent. Burma is the world's second-largest producer of opium, after Afghanistan.

Officials from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said cultivation had increased most sharply in Kachin and Shan states, where government troops are involved in ongoing and bloody clashes with ethnic fighters. Many of the farmers producing opium poppies have inadequate access to the land and are often short of food. They can earn almost 20 times as much growing poppies as they can producing rice.

Jason Eligh, the Burma country manager for UNODC, said in a statement: "Eradication alone is not an effective response to reduce opium poppy cultivation. We must remember why farmers grow poppies. In most cases it is because they need cash to buy food to feed their families."

The UN body said that a full 90 per cent of Burmese opium poppy cultivation took place in Shan state, with most of the remaining 10 per cent being grown in Kachin.

"In areas of instability like Shan and Kachin states with poor access to markets, there are few employment alternatives to poppy," added Mr Eligh. "A sustainable long-term solution can only come through significant investment in stability, the rule of law and alternative development."

The issue of opium production is a challenge for the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein. He has been able to reach ceasefire agreements with some, but not all, of the ethnic groups that have been fighting for autonomy from the government for many years. Reuters reported that, in February this year, Thein Sein's legal adviser, Sit Aye, said they wanted to eradicate poppy production by 2014.

At the launch of the UNODC report in Naypyidaw, Burma's deputy minister of home affairs, Maj Gen Kyaw Kyaw Tun, also said that eradication programmes could only be part of the solution.

"Burma did a lot of poppy eradication last year. This shows that law enforcement can have a significant impact on opium cultivation," he said. "However, effectively to reduce opium cultivation we need to do a lot more alternative development, including strengthening the livelihoods of opium farmers."

The minister, who is also the country's police chief, added: "We invite donors and the international community to help us reduce opium cultivation and production – which is not only a Burmese problem, but a global concern."

The UN body estimates that Burma will produce around 690 tonnes of opium this year, up from 610 tonnes. This represents about 10 per cent of all the opium produced in the world. Afghanistan produces around 90 per cent. Burma's opium production is largely driven by demand from China, which accounts for around 70 per cent of the heroin consumption in East Asia and the Pacific.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Life and Style
life
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
News
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Research and Insight Analyst (Mathematics Graduate)

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

IT Support Manager - Staffordshire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Manager - Near...

Nursery assistants required for day to day roles in Cambridge

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40 - £50K first year: SThree: SThree Group an...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone