Myanmar has emerged as the world’s largest source of opium in 2023, surpassing Afghanistan, according to a new report by the United Nations. This shift is attributed to a third consecutive year of expanding cultivation fueled by Myanmar’s civil war and a significant decline in opium cultivation in Afghanistan.
Factors Contributing to the Shift
Domestic Instability: Political, social, and economic instability resulting from Myanmar’s 2021 coup prompted individuals to turn to poppy farming as an alternative livelihood.
Decline in Afghanistan: Following the Taliban’s ban on drugs in 2022, opium cultivation in Afghanistan plummeted by 95%, leading to a global shift in opium supply to Myanmar.
Economic Impact on Myanmar
- Increased Earnings: The shift resulted in a substantial increase in earnings for Myanmar farmers, with opium poppy farming yielding about 75% higher profits.
- Rising Prices: The average price of opium poppies has risen to approximately $355 per kilogram.
- Expansion of Cultivation Area: The cultivation area has expanded by 18% year-on-year, reaching 47,000 hectares, marking the highest potential yield since 2001.
- Geographical Spread: Opium cultivation expanded significantly in Myanmar’s border regions, primarily in northern Shan State, followed by Chin and Kachin states.
- Yield Increase: The UNODC report highlighted a 16% increase in yield, reaching 22.9 kilograms per hectare due to more sophisticated farming practices.
Impact of Conflict
- Continued Instability: The upheaval following the military takeover in 2021 continues to drive farmers in remote areas towards opium cultivation as a means of livelihood.
- Potential for Further Expansion: The escalating conflict between the Myanmar military and armed ethnic-minority groups is likely to accelerate the expansion of opium cultivation in the region.
Concerns and Warnings:
Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC Regional Representative, expressed concerns about the consequences of opium cultivation expansion. He warned that the ongoing conflict in Myanmar is exacerbating the situation, leading to increased cultivation in remote areas.
As Myanmar takes the lead in global opium production, the situation poses challenges for authorities, international organizations, and efforts to combat the illicit drug trade. Addressing the root causes of opium cultivation, including conflict and instability, becomes crucial in mitigating the impact on communities and preventing further escalation.
Important takeaways for all competitive exams:
- Myanmar Capital: Naypyidaw
- Myanmar Currency: Myanmar Kyat
- Myanmar Official language: Burmese