ANI Photo | Myanmar becomes world’s biggest opium producer, overtakes Afghanistan: UN report

Myanmar has overtaken Afghanistan to become the world’s biggest opium producer, the United Nations said in a report.
This comes after the Taliban imposed a ban on poppy cultivation, according to CNN.
Myanmar produced an estimated 1,080 metric tons of opium in 2023, marking its highest haul since 2001, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its report.
According to CNN, the Taliban imposed a strict ban on poppy cultivation in April and slashed opium production in the country by 95 per cent.
Underscoring Afghanistan’s historically dominant role in illegal opium production, the UN highlighted that if the ban on the trade continues, it could result in a global shortage of opiates, including heroin and will likely encourage more production from Southeast Asia.
Moreover, the Golden Triangle, a remote area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, has long been one of the world’s key narcotics hubs and is notorious for its lawlessness and governed in some parts by local militias and warlords, CNN reported.
In 2023, the opium trade in Myanmar expanded for a third consecutive year, an increase of 36 per cent compared to 2022 production.
The ‘entire opiate economy’ in Myanmar is now worth between USD 1 billion and USD 2.5 billion, or between 2 per cent and 4 per cent of national GDP, according to the report.
Myanmar has been a major drug-producing nation for decades, mostly during military rule, according to CNN.
However, much of the increased opium production has been further fueled by dire economic conditions and instability that have afflicted the country since the military returned to power in the 2021 coup, ending a brief experiment with democracy.
The deadly civil war gripped the country with fighting between junta troops and myriad armed resistance forces spreading to over two-thirds of the country, according to the UN.
Moreover, surging inflation, little access to markets and state infrastructure, and few other opportunities to make a living “appears to have played a significant role in farmers’ decisions in late 2022 to cultivate more poppy”, the report said.

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