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Opium poppy exports



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MINISTER FOR JUSTICE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS SENATOR MICHAEL TATE MEDIA RELEASE

28 October 1991

OPIUM POPPY EXPORTS

The Federal Minister for Justice and Consumer Affairs, Senator Michael Tate, has made a plea to the United States administration for a change to US import arrangements to allow greater access to the US market for Tasmanian poppy growers.

Speaking in Canberra this morning, Senator Tate said the Asian region was overflowing with heroin, and stringent measures needed to be in place to suppress the availability of opium poppies.

“Australia has given a great deal of assistance, for example for the Crop Substitution Program in Thailand, so that peasants have another cash crop to sell into the Bangkok market”, he said.

“Tasmanian poppy growers work in a strictly controlled industry, with no diversion into the illicit market

“They have shown themselves to be very conscious of security, and they should be rewarded with greater access to the United States pharmaceutical market”.

Senator Tate said he was extremely disappointed that the United States House of Representatives had rejected an attempt to give greater access for countries other than India and Turkey.

Senator Tate was speaking at the 16th Asia and Pacific meeting of the Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies in Canberra, attended by almost 100 delegates and observers from 61 nations.

He said that from both a domestic industry point of view and in the context of international drug law enforcement, improved US access for the Tasmanian poppy industry represented sound policy.

At present an extimated 9000 hectares of poppy crops are planted or about to be planted in Tasmania, ready for harvest in January and February next year.

“The industry is worth about $15 million a year at the farm gate, and with processing and other multiplier effects, its value to Tasmaina is in the $30 to $35 million range annually.

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“Last year 660 farmers were involved with the crop, producing 35 to 40 percent of the world trade in poppy straw, and having the benefit of a high value crop to plant on rotation in between plantings of more traditional food crops*'.

Senator Tate said he understood negotiations were continuing with US administration officials.

“I believe it is essential to convince them of both the economic and law enforcement benefits of allowing Tasmanian producers greater access to the US pharmaceutical industry.

“The US Administration could thereby show support for a section of Australian agriculture and advance its law enforcement objectives worldwide by preventing diversion of opiates into the illicit market**, he said.

For information contact Daryl Smeaton in Senator Tate*$ Canberra office on 06 277 7260 or Adrian Wild in Senator Tate’s Hobart office on 002 34 9100

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