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Poppy replacing rice cultivation in Myanmar
Rising demand for opium in Kachin state, Myanmar, has lured many farmers to switch from rice to poppy cultivation, which is much more profitable. Gold and jade miners and those into timber logging are heavily into opium consumption fuelling demand.

THE TREND is disturbing but it apparently does not bother the Myanmar military dictators. Farmers traditionally into rice cultivation in Kachin state of northern Myanmar are switching to poppy cultivation. And the trend is on the rise given that opium rakes in more money than paddy does.

Hukawng Valley in Kachin state leads in this. Farmers are switching to poppy cultivation either in parts of their paddy fields or converting the arable land for growing poppy.

Hukawng Valley now has over 100,000 acres of poppy fields. Owners of poppy fields grease the palms of both regional officials of the Myanmar junta and Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) which signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta in 1994 and the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K), the Myanmar media in exile reports.

Poppy is also cultivated in Sadung areas in eastern Kachin state bordering China's Yunnan province. The yield is increased by using chemical fertilisers procured from China. Interestingly most of the poppy fields are owned by Chinese businessmen who bribe the junta, the KIO and the NDA-K.

In Kachin state the maximum opium production is in the Hukawng Valley. The demand for opium is so high that all the produce is consumed in the state. There is no dispatch of opium outside the state. With miners working in gold mines, those in jade mines and timber loggers in the valley vigorously chasing drugs there is no dearth of client. Supplies are unable to match the high demand to Myitkyina Township the capital of Kachin State and Laiza, the headquarters and business centre of the KIO on the Sino- Myanmar border and the mining areas, media reports suggest.

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