Opium poppy cultivation in Laos - the world's third largest producer of opium - is now at its lowest levels in nearly 10 years, according to a report released today by the United Nations drug agency.
The 2001 Lao Opium Survey, carried out by the Vienna-based UN International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) and the Government of Laos, shows a 9.5 per cent reduction of the area under opium poppy production since last year.
UNDCP estimates that the current area under production is 17,250 hectares - a 36 per cent reduction over the last three years. Figures show the total potential harvest has fallen to 117.5 tonnes this year, an almost 30 per cent drop compared with last year and the lowest potential harvest recorded since 1992.
In 1999, the Government and UNDCP signed an agreement to eliminate opium by the year 2006, targeting both production and addiction. Since then, successful joint efforts in demand reduction, alternative development and drug law enforcement have led to a sustained downward trend not only in the area under opium cultivation but also in the domestic demand for opium. In light of recent successes the Government has accelerated its target to 2005.
The progress in Laos - as well as significant coca reduction and advances in alternative development in Bolivia and Peru - are some of the striking examples of how the global drug control action plans adopted at the UN General Assembly special session in June 1998 have been implemented, the agency said.