• Short Summary

    Turkey was once the source of much of the opium base used to supply the world's heroin markets.

  • Description

    CU PAN PULL BACK GV Women in opium poppy field picking crop, near town of Sincanli, Turkey.

    CU Man collecting poppy heads from women and carrying them in sack to lorry. (3 SHOTS)

    GV PAN Three large warehouses. Men open tall doors of one to reveal stacked sacks of opium seed heads.

    CU Men sifting through poppy seeds on warehouse floor.

    CU PULL BACK GV Photograph of Turkish opposition leader, Bulent Ecevit, in shop window, TO street scene in township of Sincanli.

    CU Women sorting and breaking poppy heads in Sincanli.

    CU PAN Seeds being roasted in pan over small fire.

    SV EXT Sieve used for seed separation.

    SV & CU Three men in field collecting heads of poppies. (2 SHOTS)

    Initials JS/

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: Turkey was once the source of much of the opium base used to supply the world's heroin markets. Ten years ago, pressure from the United States to break the notorious "French Connection" - the illicit opium supply route to the U.S. via Marseilles - led to a ban on poppy cultivation. The action posed a real threat to the livelihood of farming communities, and the ban was lifted. But the strict controls imposed on the farmers are gradually stifling one of Turkey's traditional industries.

    SYNOPSIS: For generations, the people of Anatolia have farmed the opium poppy. Autumn sees the traditional harvest of the delicate plant, which grows peculiarly well in the harsh climate of this part of the country. This year, the crop is expected to produce ten thousand tonnes of rough - cut "straw". Processed into a concentrate, it will be sold to pharmaceutical firms for the production of morphine. More than 100,000 farmers are involved in the industry, and Turkish government officials are proud of the degree to which cultivation has become controlled. The International Narcotics Control Board last year commended their efforts to stop illicit sales and smuggling.

    Western narcotics police were sceptical that Turkey could effectively control production. But the government now purchases the entire crop, insisting that the poppy heads are sold complete on their stalks. Previously individual farmers extracted the gum, storing and selling it themselves. Theoretically the product went to the government, but black marketeers offered a much higher price. Now fields are regularly inspected and penalties severe.

    Bulent Ecevit, Turkey's past Prime Minister now the leader of the opposition, repealed the law banning poppy cultivation, in 1974. Since then, he's won many votes from the Anatolian townsfolk. Despite his action, opium production in Turkey has steadily decreased. The size of plots is strictly limited, and at the official price, the most the farmer gets for his crop is 160 dollars (US), just enough to offset production costs.

    Nevertheless the farmer knows he can sell his entire crop, and the discarded seeds provide a highly valued vegetable oil. But Turkey has failed to stop trafficking of the drug across the border from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. More than 1,500 tonnes of opium is smuggled into Turkey each year from the so called "Golden Triangle", and primitive village laboratories convert the opium gum to heroin. As a result Turkey's own production has fallen to less than a third of the production levels of two years ago. The industry will net the country only 3.5 million (US) dollars this year. For the government and farmers alike, the opium business is only a marginal profit-maker.

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