July 9, 2019

With opium prices down, Mexican poppy planters are packing their bags

Mexican migrants are fleeing their poppy farms en masse thanks to plummeting poppy prices.

Until recently, rural farmers in southwestern Mexico powered the American market for opioids by planting poppies that were processed into heroin.

But the price of opium has recently plummeted and, according to The New York Times, Mexican poppy farmers are moving on to more productive pastures.

So… what happened to demand for poppies?

The American opioid landscape is shifting: Fentanyl (derived from chemicals) is becoming more popular than heroin (made from poppies). 

This change in drug preference has sent an economic shockwave down the opioid supply chain. Fewer heroin buyers reduced the number of heroin dealers, smugglers, synthesizers, opium brokers, and — finally — poppy farmers.

In the last 18 months, poppy prices plummeted 90%…

And poppy producers — many of whom don’t know or care that their poppies were processed into opium resin and later heroin — have started peacing out to escape poverty.

In San Miguel Amoltepec Viejo, a small village in Mexico’s southwestern La Montaña region where poppy production put food on the table, 40% of residents have left to pursue more productive work elsewhere.

Now, no one is sure if poppy production will rebound

Some former poppy farmers have already migrated north and found new work on farms in the US, and many have found agricultural jobs in other Mexican states.

Other optimistic farmers have stockpiled opium in the hopes that prices will one day pop again. But until they do — or rural Mexican communities get the government assistance they have long been promised — the mass migration is expected to continue.

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