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Monday, 22 January, 2001, 14:49 GMT
Fight against drugs makes headway
Colombia parades alleged heroin traffickers in Bogota
The fight against illegal drugs is making headway, according to a UN report.

Production of heroin and cocaine is down and supply has also narrowed to fewer countries, says the report by the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP).

We see very important indications that opium cultivation in Afghanistan will be this year considerably less extensive than last year

Researcher Sandeep Chawia
The ODCCP said coca leaf and cocaine manufacturing fell some 20% between 1992 and 1999, while opium production fell more than 17% in the past year alone.

"The global drug problem - often characterised as hopeless - is neither unstoppable nor irreversible," said the report.

Ecstasy increase

The report welcomed crackdowns by drug-producing countries such as Colombia - still the main source of cocaine.

The number of countries reporting drugs seizures has increased
The ODCCP said: "Thanks to a 'get-serious' approach on the part of most major coca and opium poppy producing countries, production is now limited to fewer countries than ever before."

Afghanistan and Burma together account for about 90% of global illicit opium production, and Colombia alone is responsible for two-thirds of global coca leaf production.

But the report also warned that globalisation means the routes for drugs trafficking had expanded.

Highs and lows of drugs war
Bolivia has reduced the area under illicit coca production by 78% since 1997
Peru has cut illicit exports of cocaine by 50% over the last decade.
Laos remains the world's third largest producer of opium, but has cut its output by 30% over the last 18 months
Opium poppy production in Vietnam reduced by 90% over the past decade
In 1999 Afghanistan produced 4,565 tones of opium - a world record

The number of countries reporting seizures increased to 170 in 1997/98 from 120 in 1980/81.

The report added that the main markets had also stabilised or even experienced a decline in numbers.

However, there had been a worldwide increase in consumption of amphetamine-type stimulants such as methamphetamine and Ecstasy.

Poverty reduction, conflict resolution and mediation must play a role in the reduction and eradication of drug production, the report said.

Refugees fear

But there are reservations. Critics are concerned that the Colombian authorities' crackdown on the drug trade could exacerbate civil strife in the country by dealing a major blow to rebel political forces financed by drug sales.

Global drugs of choice
Cannabis: 144m users
Amphetamine-type stimulants: 29m users
Cocaine: 14m users
Opiates: 13.5m users
And in Afghanistan, fears are mounting that a ban on opium cultivation could spur the exodus of refugees already fleeing drought and war.

Afghan farmers say growing other crops will not meet the rising cost of living, and warn they will move their production to neighbouring Pakistan.

Opium production was down in 2000, in partly because of a crackdown by the ruling Taleban and in part because of a devastating drought.

Alternative development projects are one way for countries to climb out of this situation, and the report pointed to the "success" of such projects in Bolivia, Pakistan and Thailand.

But even in blackspots there were positive signs.

ODCCP research head Sandeep Chawia, said: "The Taleban leadership prohibiting opium production seems to be respected.

"We see very important indications that opium cultivation in Afghanistan will be this year considerably less extensive than last year."

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