Mexico was the world’s second largest illicit opium producer in 2017 behind Afghanistan, according to a new United Nations report.
An estimated 586 tonnes of opium were produced in Mexico between July 2016 and June 2017, an increase of 100 tonnes compared to the same period a year earlier.
The figure accounted for 5.6% of global production of the drug, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in the publication World Drug Report 2019.
However, Mexico’s production was dwarfed by that of Afghanistan, which produced 86% of the world’s illicit opium in 2017. Myanmar was the third largest producer, providing 5.3% of global supply.
Mexico’s increased opium production was driven by an expansion of the area of land on which illegal poppy crops are grown, the UNODC said.
According to the report, opium poppy cultivation increased by 21% in 2017 to 30,600 hectares.
However, the latter figure falls well short of the estimate made by the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy, which said that poppies were grown on 44,100 hectares of land in Mexico in 2017.
Even though the area of land on which poppies are cultivated and opium production both went up in 2017, the UN report shows that Mexico did have some success in its fight against the drug.
The government eradicated opium poppy crops on more than 29,000 hectares of land in 2017, more than any other country.
However, that statistic reveals that farmers are expanding the area on which they grow poppies at a considerably greater rate than that at which authorities are eradicating them.
Mexico’s largest opium poppy producing region extends across the Sierra Madre Occidental in the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango, an area known as the Golden Triangle.
Large poppy crops are also grown in the north of Nayarit and in the Sierra Madre del Sur in Oaxaca and Guerrero.
While poppy and opium production in Mexico remains high, a study published by the Network of Researchers in International Affairs (Noria) earlier this year said that prices for Mexican opium gum plummeted by as much as 80% last year due to the rise in demand for the synthetic opioid fentanyl among United States drug users.
Noria said the decline in opium income “is causing a series of very serious secondary economic effects” in communities that are dependent on the cash crop and that “the Mexican opium crisis looks like it might ruin the poorest areas of rural Mexico for good.”
Source: EFE (sp)