Almost 99% of the opium poppy farmers in Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa region are in low spirits after harsh weather destroyed crops worth close to Rs 600 crore, battering a trade central to the area’s fragile economy.
Legal cultivation of opium for medicinal purposes is carried out in parts of India under strict licensing conditions.
State officials say 19,019 farmers in Malwa got permission for cultivation this crop season, but 18,802 of them submitted applications seeking help.
Madhya Pradesh supplies about 18 tonnes of opium every year, but sources say the yield is expected to plummet to just 1 to 2 tonnes this time. The extraction takes place during the months of February and March.
“I invested more than Rs 5 lakh, but got nothing,” said farmer Umrao Gurjar. “The state or central government should at least give us permission to sell the husk.”
According to law, the state excise department must get permission from the central narcotics department to purchase poppy husk from opium farmers.
India is one of the world’s largest legitimate producers of opium and the drug is exported as well as used by the domestic pharmaceutical industry.
The Centre announces an opium policy each year, setting out the terms and conditions subject to which licences are given to farmers while deciding the areas where production will be allowed, the prices at which the crop will be purchased by the government and the minimum qualifying yield for a licence the next crop year.
“This is a huge loss for farmers and the narcotics department also,” said a local official on the condition of anonymity. “We have submitted a detailed report to the government and have sought help for the farmers in this critical situation.”
OPIUM IN MP
Rs 600 crore: Worth of crops destroyed by harsh weather
19,019 farmers in Malwa got permission for cultivation this crop season
18,802 farmers submitted applications seeking help
18 tonnes of opium supplied by MP every year
1 to 2 tonnes opium supply expected this year
MORE ABOUT OPIUM
Poppy has a short growing season from September to March.
The farmers extract opium in the month of February and March.
They lend each poppy flower (capsule) with knife and blade in the night and collect opium.
The opium latex which oozes out and congeals in the night is scraped and collected manually the next morning
The government sets a minimum qualifying yield (MQY) at the beginning of the season. MQY is the cornerstone of the control mechanism. If farmers fail to meet MQY per hectare, they lose their cultivating licence.