When poppies don’t pay

With a stark decline in the price fetched by opium gum, Mexico’s government should take strides toward making crop substitution proposals a reality in Guerrero
Foreign Policy (US)
Monday, June 24, 2019

“Then and there, I went to sell it, because I needed the money,” sing Los Armadillos, a band from La Sierra in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The popular song, “Cosecha Nocturna” (“Night Harvest”), is about growing and selling opium poppies, a crop that campesinos, or small-plot farmers, have relied on in the mountainous regions of La Sierra and La Montaña for decades. But that could be about to change. Between 2017 and 2019, the price per kilogram of the gum scraped from the flower fell from $1,059 to $265, making it much harder to earn a living from cultivating poppies. And, as farmers petition the government for subsidies to replace that income with traditional crops like corn, beans, and avocados, there’s a chance it could be a change for the better.