HomeNewsBriefMexico Publishes Poppy Cultivation Data for First Time
BRIEF

Mexico Publishes Poppy Cultivation Data for First Time

HEROIN / 23 JUN 2016 BY DEBORAH BONELLO EN

Mexico has for the first time released its own estimates for the amount of land dedicated to poppy cultivation, and the figures contradict expectations that the government would downplay the extent of its poppy problem.

Authorities said on June 22 that Mexico averaged 24,800 hectares of illicit poppy crops between July 2014 and June 2015. That average is based on maximum cultivation of 28,100 hectares in peak growing season and a minimum of 21,500 hectares dedicated to the flower.

Mexico is now the world's third largest producer of opium poppies. According to data from this week's World Drug Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mexico accounted for 9 percent of territory dedicated to poppy cultivation around the world in 2015.

The clandestine poppy plots -- or gardens as theyre often called by the humble poppy farmers that tend them -- are concentrated in the northern states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Durango and Nayarit and the southern states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, according to the newly published (pdf) findings.

The figures -- which exceed the most recent US government estimates for poppy crops in Mexico -- were the result of a three-year research project carried out using a methodology developed jointly with the UNODC.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Antonio Mazzitelli, representative for the UNODC in Mexico, said that the new data is an important step towards transparency on the part of the Mexican authorities.

In the past, the Mexican government had only published eradication figures for poppy crops. The latest eradication stats from SEDENA, Mexicos Defense secretary, say that between January and May of this year soldiers cut down just over 15,000 hectares of poppy plants across the country.

InSight Crime Analysis

Figures on poppy cultivation and heroin production have become an increasingly political issue in Mexicos relationship with its northern neighbor.

Drug-related violence in Mexico stoked by an increasingly militarized government crackdown on organized crime, a strategy that is partly funded by the US, continues to be a major public security problem.

Booming demand for heroin on the streets of US cities and growing heroin-related deaths makes Mexico's poppy cultivation an important issue in Washington. Mexican heroin now dominates street markets in many cities in the United States, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), so an update to the statistics was long overdue.

The most recent US government figures are for 2014 and estimate that there were 17,000 hectares of poppy in Mexico, a 59 percent increase from the 2013 estimate of 11,000.

The latest UNODC estimates are for 2012, when the body calculated that there were 10,500 hectares of illicit poppy crops in Mexico. While the US government figures pointed to a big increase in Mexican poppy production between 2013 and 2014, UNODC figures indicate that the amount of land dedicated to cultivation fell between 2009, when it was 19,500 hectares, and 2012 (UNODC World Drug Report, 2015, pdf).

That the fresh Mexican government estimate indicates a spike in poppy cultivation may come as a surprise to some, who might have expected the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto to play down that figure. Mexican officials have in the past described US government estimates as massively off-base.

However, the new figures do provide justification for Mexico's controversial crackdown on drug cartels.

The hardline strategy, started by Peña Nietos predecessor Felipe Calderon, has put Mexicos army on the streets to fight the country's powerful organized crime networks. But both soldiers and police at all levels have been accused of grave human rights abuses such as extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. A recent study by Open Society Foundations concluded that Mexicos government might be guilty of crimes against humanity, and there has been pushback both at home and abroad against the policy.

Corruption within the police -- at least at a state and municipal level -- is so endemic that state agents have sometimes acted as the armed wing of criminal gangs, as the mass disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers college in Guerrero in September 2014 showed.

But the presidency has been making efforts to change its tone on illicit drugs, the most striking example being President Peña Nietos about-face on marijuana legalization. He voiced staunch opposition to legalization right up until he proposed legalizing medical marijuana.

Despite skepticism that the Mexican government means what it says, it would be cynical not to give it credit for its efforts to quantify, for the first time, the illicit poppy crops growing in its territories.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 4 JAN 2021

A series of unusual and contrasting seizures of rare fauna in the Mexico City area have raised important questions about…

COVID AND CRIME / 30 MAR 2021

The seizure in Mexico of COVID-19 vaccine smuggled aboard a private plane linked to a Honduran textile magnate marks the…

HOMICIDES / 2 DEC 2020

Between 35,000 and 45,000 boys, girls and teenagers are apprehended and exploited by criminal groups in Mexico, according to Saskia…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…