For most of the 20th Century, morphine and codeine have been used for the relief of pain, suppressing coughs, and treating diarrhoea. Indeed, in the last thirty years both opiates have been recommended by the World Health Organisation as essential therapeutic tools with a wide range of medical applications and, more recently, in the treatment of cancer-related pain. Consequently, over the last twenty years the demand for opiate raw materials has increased significantly.

However, mirroring this increase in the demand for opiates for legitimate medical and scientific needs has been an increasing concern over the illegal use of opiates, from smoking and eating opium in the 19th Century to smoking and injecting heroin in the late part of the 20th Century. The challenge for the international community has been to establish a regulatory system that ensures that the legitimate medical and scientific needs for opiates are met, whilst preventing diversion to illicit markets.

The Report seeks to assess the scale and nature of any potential diversion from the licit trade through a comparative analysis of the different processes and controls applied in two source countries, India and Turkey. It compares the different regulatory and control mechanisms that are applied in each of these countries and identifies lessons learned and �best practice� in the cultivation, production and regulatory mechanisms for licit opium poppy.

The Report consists of five main sections and a detailed Annex. The first section analyses the current trends in cultivation and production amongst the main producer nations of opiate raw materials. It highlights how recent developments in the international trade in opiates have impacted on the �traditional supplier countries� of India and Turkey. The second section documents the regulation and control mechanisms in Turkey and India. It describes the chronology of events in the cultivation, and production of opium and the different control mechanisms that are in place at each stage of the process in each country.

The third section analyses the �risk points� in the cultivation and production process in Turkey and India and highlights how the risk factor differs due to the nature of the product, raw opium or poppy straw, and the structural mechanisms for regulation and control. The fourth section analyses the evidence of the extent of diversion, and its ultimate destination both in terms of domestic consumption and international trafficking.

The detailed Annex seeks to inform the current discussions regarding illicit opium production, drawing on the extensive literature that has been written on licit opium poppy producing nations over the last 60 years. Given that this body of work has not been synthesised previously, and that there is a growing debate, within the UK and other countries, regarding the potential yield of illicit opium poppy, this Annex provides an overview of the salient issues that are still of relevance to policy makers and analysts today.

The Report concludes that diversion from licit cultivation can only be minimised if the national authorities can guarantee that they have the necessary resources, institutional capacity and control mechanisms in place to ensure that they are the sole purchaser of opiate raw materials. It suggests that this is not the case in India and that there is evidence of systematic leakage from its licit opium industry. The Report suggests that the same, however, cannot be said of Turkey.

The Report concludes that the reasons for this difference are mainly attributed to inherent problems associated with the production of raw opium. However, some of the institutional mechanisms for regulation and control at the local level are also highlighted as being deficient.

The Report suggests that by reducing its utility, the poppy straw method reduces the demand for the product. The high cost of conversion, the sheer scale of the industrial plant and materials required, and consequently, the risk of detection, all combine to reduce the potential for diversion. Clearly, from the control perspective the poppy straw method currently has significant advantages over the production of raw opium.

The Report makes a number of recommendations:

  • It suggests that a detailed Business Plan for the phased transition to the poppy straw method should be produced for the licit opium industry in India, building on the work that has already been undertaken in India on the efficacy of converting to poppy straw production.
  • It recommends that local mechanisms for the supervision and control of opium poppy cultivation in India need to be reviewed, suggesting that the current system of using village representatives elected by fellow licensees is insufficient to prevent diversion .
  • It suggests that given the current drought in India, that the results of the Joint Opium Yield Survey conducted by the Government of India and the United States Government will need to be closely examined to ensure that the data can be extrapolated across the states and over time. It suggests that consideration should be given to repeating this Survey in the 2001/2002 growing season to ensure that the data is applicable for more than one season.
  • Of particular importance, the report recommends that a freight profiling exercise on shipments from, or transiting, Sri Lanka should be conducted to assess the potential threat trafficking via this country poses to the UK.
  • The Report also recommends that there is a need to review the increasing number of anomalies that seem to be occurring amongst those countries �producing� opiate raw materials. The use of seized opium for the production of alkaloids would not seem to conform to the principals of the Single Convention. Moreover, greater consideration needs to be given to what the status of �traditional supplier countries� actually entails in the context of genetically improved varieties of opium poppy and shifting patterns in the supply of, and demand for, opiate raw materials in recent years. It suggests that increasing instability in the demand for opiate raw materials from �traditional supplier countries�, and in particular India, may well be lead to increasing levels of diversion.