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The Central government has decided to rope in the private sector to commence production of concentrated poppy straw from India’s opium crop to boost their yield of alkaloids, used for medical purposes and exported to several countries.


GS-III: Agriculture, GS-III: Indian Economy (International Trade, Mobilization of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Opium Industry in India
  2. History of Opium Production in India
  3. Regulation of Opium in India
  4. About Opium and its products

About the Opium Industry in India

  • Legal cultivation of opium for medicinal purposes is carried out in India, only in selected areas, under free licensing conditions.
  • India is the world’s largest manufacturer of legal opium for the pharmaceutical industry according to the CIA World Factbook.
  • India is one among 12 countries in world where legal cultivation for medical use is permissible within the ambit of United Nations, Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961.
  • In India legal cultivation is done primarily in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Among the few countries permitted to cultivate the opium poppy crop for export and extraction of alkaloids, India currently only extracts alkaloids from opium gum at facilities controlled by the Revenue Department in the Finance Ministry.
  • This entails farmers extracting gum by manually lancing the opium pods and selling the gum to government factories.
  • The Ministry has now decided to switch to new technologies, after trial cultivation reports submitted last year by two private firms showed higher extraction of alkaloids using the concentrated poppy straw (CPS).
  • India’s opium crop acreage has been steadily declining over the years and using the CPS extraction method is expected to help cut the occasional dependence on imports of products like codeine (extracted from opium) for medical uses.

History of Opium Production in India

  • The cultivation of poppy in India for Opium production started during the British Raj, constituting 15% of revenue of British Raj from Colonial India.
  • The legalized cultivation and management of produce under strict government control continued in India even post-independence.

Regulation of Opium in India

  • The NDPS act empowers the Central Government to permit and regulate cultivation of opium poppy for medical and scientific purposes.
  • The Government of India notifies the tracts where opium cultivation can be licensed as well as the General Conditions for issuance of license every year.
  • These notifications are commonly referred to as Opium Policies. Opium cultivation is permitted in the notified tracts in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh The General Conditions, among others, include a Minimum Qualifying Yield (MQY) to be tendered by the cultivators of each of these three states, to be eligible for license in the succeeding year.
  • Presently, the Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN), is responsible for overall supervision of cultivation as per provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
  • The produce from licensed cultivators is procured solely by government fixing strict norms on quantity and quality. The produce is then supplied by government-to-Government Opium and Alkaloid Factories (GOAF).

About Opium and its products

  • Opium poppy (Papaver somniferous) plant is the source of opium gum which contains several indispensable alkaloids such as Morphine, codeine and Thebaine.
  • Morphine is the best analgesic in the world.
  • In case of extreme and excruciating pain such as that of terminally ill cancer patients, nothing alleviates the suffering except morphine.
  • Codeine is commonly used in manufacture of cough syrups.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023