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U.S. Department of State
1996 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1997

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs


Status of Potential Worldwide Production

In evaluating the figures below, one must bear in mind that they are theoretical. They represent estimates of potential production--the amounts that the USG estimates could have been produced if, and only if, all available crops were to be converted into finished drugs. Since these estimates make no allowance for losses, actual production is probably lower than our estimates. The figures shown are mean points in a statistical range.

Potential Opium Production. In Southeast Asia, estimated opium cultivation and production in the Golden Triangle countries rose in 1996. According to USG estimates, in 1996, growers in Burma, Laos, and Thailand cultivated an estimated 190,520 hectares of opium poppy, potentially yielding 2,790 metric tons of opium gum. This is an eight percent increase in estimated cultivation and a nine percent increase in production over the 176,745 hectares and 2,564 metric tons estimated for 1995.

In Burma, estimated opium poppy cultivation increased by some six percent to 163,100 hectares over the 154,070 hectares reported for 1995. In 1996, estimated production rose by nine percent to 2,560 metric tons compared to the 2,340 metric tons reported last year. Weather conditions were largely responsible for the increase in the crop. In Laos, estimated cultivation increased significantly by 28 percent to 25,250 hectares from the 1995 figure of 19,650 hectares, estimated production rose by 11 percent to 200 metric tons from the 1995 figure of 180 metric tons. Estimated opium poppy cultivation in Thailand increased by approximately 24 percent to 2,170 hectares from the 1,750 hectares observed last year. Thailand had an estimated potential production of 30 metric tons--20 percent more than the 25 metric tons estimated in 1995. In 1996, the USG's first survey of Vietnam revealed opium poppy cultivation of 3,150 hectares yielding an estimated 25 metric tons of opium. The USG did not conduct a survey in China's Yunnan Province in 1996.

Opium poppy cultivation in Southwest Asia declined by nine percent in 1996, after rising for the two previous years. A significant reduction in opium poppy cultivation in Pakistan accounted for the drop. Total hectarage for Afghanistan and Pakistan fell from 45,690 hectares in 1995 to 41,350 hectares in 1996. Total potential production for both countries declined from 1,405 metric tons to 1,305 metric tons. Afghan hectarage fell from 38,740 in 1995 to 37,950 in 1996. The estimated yield fell by two percent from 1,250 metric tons in 1995 to 1,230 metric tons in 1996. Pakistan's hectarage dropped from 6,950 hectares in 3,400 hectares in 1996. Estimated yield fell more than half from 155 metric tons of opium in 1995 to 75 metric tons in 1996. India's illicit cultivation declined from 4,750 hectares of opium poppy in 1995, with a potential yield of 77 metric tons of gum to 3,100 hectares potentially producing 47 metric tons of opium in 1996. We have no firm data about poppy cultivation or opium production in Iran. The USG estimated in 1992 that Iran had approximately 3,500 hectares of opium poppy with a potential yield of 35 metric tons to 70 metric tons. There has been no new information in 1996.

The USG is still examining the illicit drug crop situation in Russia and the Central Asian countries formerly part of the Soviet Union. While some of these countries may be able to produce significant opium poppy harvests, the USG still lacks sufficient data to identify and measure all suspected cultivation areas.

In the Western Hemisphere, the opium poppy growing countries have maintained active crop control efforts despite continuing campaigns by criminal organizations to expand the areas under cultivation. In Colombia, USG estimates showed Colombian opium poppy cultivation at 6,300 hectares, four percent less than last year, but enough to yield an estimated 63 metric tons of opium gum, or 6.3 tons of heroin, assuming no losses. In Mexico, the 1996 crop was almost identical to the previous year's. After Mexican government eradication operations destroyed 7,900 hectares of poppy, there were 5,100 hectares available for exploitation by the drug syndicates, with an estimated potential yield of 54 metric tons of opium gum, or 5.4 metric tons of heroin. Guatemala's poppy cultivation remains at minimal levels after government efforts.

Coca Cultivation. Worldwide coca cultivation dropped from last year's record of 214,800 hectares to 209,700 in 1996. Despite an active eradication program, Colombia experienced an increase in coca cultivation to 67,900 hectares at the end of 1996. This was a 32 percent increase over the 1995 total of 50,900 hectares. In Bolivia, government forces eradicated 7,512 hectares, leaving 48,100 hectares under cultivation. This is a negligible decrease from 1995's estimate of 48,600 hectares. Some coca is cultivated in inaccessible areas of Brazil, but its extent is unknown. Ecuador has only negligible amounts of coca.

Cocaine Yield Estimates

The cocaine yield figure is offered with the same caveat as the crop harvest yield data: it is a figure representing potential production. It is a theoretical number. It does not in every case allow for losses or the many other variables that one would encounter in a "real world" conversion from plant to finished drug. In fact, the amount of cocaine HCl actually produced is probably lower. A USG team that studied cocaine processing in Bolivia's Chapare region in 1993 found that in the laboratories under observation processing efficiency was lower than previously thought. The estimate for Bolivia was reduced accordingly and the figure published as a point estimate rather than as a range.

In 1996, taking into account estimates of local consumption and local seizures, the USG calculates that if virtually every coca leaf were converted into cocaine HCl, and there were no losses because of inefficiency, bad weather, disease, or the deterrent effects of law enforcement, 760 metric tons of cocaine HCl theoretically could have been available from Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru for worldwide export. This figure includes 435 metric tons potentially available from Peru, 215 metric tons potentially available from Bolivia, and approximately 110 metric tons potentially available from Colombia. In publishing these numbers, we repeat our caveat that these are theoretical numbers, useful for examining trends. Though research is moving us closer to a more precise cocaine yield estimate for Latin America, we do not yet know for certain the actual amount available for distribution.

Consumption Data

Most of the chapters in this report contain some user or consumption data. For the most part, these are estimates provided by foreign governments or informal estimates by USG agencies. There is no way to vouch for their reliability. They are included because they are the only data available and give an approximation of how governments view their own drug abuse problems. They should not be considered as a source of data to develop any reliable consumption estimates.

Marijuana Production

Cannabis cultivation dropped in Mexico in 1996 to 6,500 hectares with a potential yield of 3,400 metric tons. This is a seven percent drop from 1995's figure of 6,900 hectares, with a potential yield of 3,650 mt. Mexican law enforcement agencies eradicated, 12,200 hectares of cannabis in 1995. In Colombia's traditional cannabis growing zones, where intensive eradication in previous years had virtually destroyed the crop, there was a resurgence of cultivation in 1993 to an estimated 5,000 hectares. That estimate did not change in 1996. Jamaica's cannabis crop rose to 527 hectares in 1996 up from 305 hectares in 1995, a 73 percent increase. The 1996 potential yield was also up an estimated 73 percent to 356 metric tons from 206 metric tons in 1995. We recognize that there may be considerable undetected cannabis cultivation in Central and East Asia, and on the African continent, though there is no evidence that any of this cannabis significantly affects the United States. As we gather more accurate information, we will report significant findings in future INCSRs.

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