Once a staple crop for drug traffickers, marijuana is giving way to the opium poppy.
Between 2016 and 2017, the amount of land on which opium poppy plantations were discovered and destroyed by the Mexican Army grew by 26%, from 22,235 to 28,221 hectares.
During the same period, land on which marijuana plantations were located dropped 24%, from 5,395 to 4,086 hectares.
Profit is one of the main drivers behind the larger opium poppy production and its increase, military sources told the newspaper Reforma.
According to figures from the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR), drug traffickers earn US $80 per kilogram of marijuana, while the same amount of heroin — an opium byproduct — can be sold for $35,000.
Mexico is now the third largest producer of opium poppies in the world, behind only the Asian countries of Afghanistan and Myanmar, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Guerrero is the state with the largest amount of land dedicated to growing poppies, followed by the Golden Triangle states of Durango, Sinaloa and Chihuahua.
Military officials believe the states of Oaxaca, Michoacán, Nayarit, Jalisco and Sonora are red flag areas, given the growth seen in the number of opium poppy plantations over the last three years.
The United States State Department acknowledged in April that it intended to fund a redoubled opium poppy eradication program after detecting a surge in recent years.
This comes at a time when the number of overdose-related deaths in that country reached record levels. In 2015, there were 54,404 such deaths, or 149 per day.
Source: Reforma (sp)