UN says opium production in Myanmar down for first time in 8 years

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BANGKOK — Opium production in Myanmar fell for the first time in nearly a decade in 2014, the United Nations said Monday. The drop was due to lower crop yields, though, as the total area under cultivation was roughly the same as last year.

Myanmar is the world's second-leading opium producer after Afghanistan, and production in the Southeast Asian country has risen steadily since 2006 as growing demand has pushed prices up.

In its latest annual survey, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said farmers in Myanmar produced 670 tons of opium this year, 200 tons less than 2013.

The total area under opium poppy cultivation was steady at 57,600 hectares (about 142,000 acres).

The decline in output was mostly due to decreased crop yields, a factor that varies annually because of climatic fluctuations and disease.

Opium production is illegal in Myanmar but hard to stamp out because the impoverished farmers who grow it do so to make a living. The U.N. said that 72 percent of famers it interviewed said they grew the plant because it was "more lucrative than other crops."

Afghanistan accounts for the vast majority of global cultivation of opium poppies, which are used to make heroin.

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