Afghan opium output hit by disease but Myanmar's up: U.N.

Thu Jun 23, 2011 10:04am EDT
 

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Global production of opium fell 38 percent in 2010 as plant disease hit crops in top producer Afghanistan, but output in second-largest producer Myanmar jumped after a big increase in land under cultivation, the United Nations said on Thursday.

In its annual World Drug Report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said heroin consumption has stabilized in Europe while cocaine consumption has declined in North America, which it described as "the most lucrative markets" for those drugs.

But there were worrying trends: a big increase in cocaine use in Europe and South America over the past decade, the recent expansion of heroin use in Africa and the increased abuse of synthetic "designer drugs" and prescription drugs in places.

Yury Fedotov, UNODC's executive director, noted in the report some progress in the prevention of drug use and said more should be done to facilitate "healthy and fulfilling alternatives" so that drug use was not accepted as a way of life.

"On the demand side, there is growing recognition that we must draw a line between criminals (drug traffickers) and their victims (drug users), and that treatment for drug use offers a far more effective cure than punishment," he added.

BLIGHT IN AFGHANISTAN

Various plant diseases combined to cut Afghanistan's opium production in half last year and UNODC said production could fall a little further in 2011.

The country accounted for 74 percent of global opium production in 2010, down from 88 percent in 2009.

Myanmar's share of global production reached 12 percent, up from 5 percent in 2007. The area under cultivation there fell by 21 percent to 185,900 hectares (459,400 acres) between 2007 and 2009 but it rose to 195,700 hectares last year, UNODC said.   Continued...