The Indian Union Government has recently unveiled the annual licensing policy for the cultivation of opium poppy for the crop year 2023-24. This policy specifically impacts farmers in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. According to the new policy, nearly 1.12 lakh farmers in these states are expected to receive licenses. This marks a substantial increase, adding 27,000 more farmers than the previous year.
The growth in the number of licenses aims to meet the rising demand for pharmaceutical preparations for palliative care and other medical purposes. The increase will also serve India’s export industry by ensuring that the production of alkaloids meets both domestic and international requirements.
“The key features of the annual license policy include the retention of licenses to existing opium cultivators who tendered an average yield of Morphine (MQY-M) equal to or more than 4.2 kg per hectare,” according to the policy details. Additionally, farmers who have previously produced opium gum with a morphine content yield between 3.0 kg and 4.2 kg per hectare will now only be eligible for a license for Concentrate of Poppy Straw (CPS) based methods, with a validity of five years.
Further changes in the policy include more lenient general license conditions to increase the number of farmers covered. Those who cultivated CPS-based opium in 2022-23 and have not been barred due to any regulations will also retain their licenses for this method.
The Central Government has not only augmented its own alkaloid processing capabilities but is also collaborating with the private sector to boost opium processing. It has introduced a public-private partnership (PPP) for setting up a 100MT capacity processing unit for CPS. This initiative aims to meet domestic demand and also make India a competitive exporter of alkaloid and alkaloid-based medical preparations.