Opium Poppies Farm
Poppy is the common name for plants in the Papaveraceae family. Within this group there are annuals, perennials and biennials. They include oriental poppies, field poppies Welsh poppies and Himalayan poppies.
Their summer flowers may be fleeting but they make a wonderful addition to the garden in May and June.
Large-flowered oriental poppies are the most popular poppy to grow. They have hairy flower stems and foliage. Flower petals can be ruffled, crimped or shaggy, and range in colour from white to pink, purple and red. They can measure about 15cm across.
Other popular poppies to grow include field poppy, Papaver rhoeas, and opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. For those looking for a challenge, try growing blue Himalayan poppies, Meconopsis betonicfolia.
Most poppies thrive in moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Field poppies and opium tolerate drier, poorer soils than oriental poppies, while Himalayan poppies do best in moist, slightly acidic soils, in partial shade. For most species, deadhead spent blooms to prolong flowering. Most poppies come true if propagated by seed but oriental poppies should be propagated from root cuttings.
Our opium poppies Growing Process
Papaver somniferum, one of the few species of poppy that produces opium, is an annual plant with a growth cycle of 120 days. Reap Right Farmers plant seeds, which range in color from white to yellow to brown and gray, in shallow holes. Within six weeks a cabbage-like plant emerges. It takes eight weeks for the poppy plant to grow about one to two feet. Each poppy has one long primary stem with secondary stems called tillers. As the plant continues to grow, a bud develops at the tip. After 90 days, the bud blossoms into a flower with four petals in a variety of colors. The petals fall away to reveal a green pod or ghozah that will continue to grow to the size of an egg. Inside the pod is the ovary that produces opium. Opium, which contains over 50 types of alkaloids including codeine and morphine, is only produced during the ten to 12 day period when the pod is ripening. Once the pod reaches maturity, the alkaloids in the opium are no longer made.
Since pods ripen at different stages, farmers must carefully examine each one to determine if it is ready for harvesting. Reap Right Farmers typically begin to harvest opium about two weeks after the petals have fallen. While still on the stem, the farmer makes vertical incisions on two or three sides of the pod. Reap Right farmers carefully cut the pod so that the cut is not too deep. Otherwise, the milky white sap, called sheera, will flow too quickly and drip to the ground. So that the opium will ooze out overnight onto the pod’s surface, incisions are made in the afternoon. The pods will continue to secrete opium for several days.
As the sap oxidizes, it turns brown and forms a resin called apeen or taryak that is collected the following morning. Yields of raw opium vary according to the size of the pod and the efficiency of the farmer. The average weight of raw opium collected per pod is 80 milligrams — about 15 to 20 kilograms per hectare of land. The raw opium, which does not spoil if it is stored in a cool, dry environment, is placed in a plastic bag, ready to be made into morphine base.
Raw opium, which has a strong odor that can be easily detected by customs officials, must be converted into morphine base before it can be transported out of the country. To create morphine base, the opium is added to boiling water. The raw opium dissolves into a clear brown liquid or “liquid opium.” Plant scrapings and other impurities float to the top to be scooped up. Slaked lime is then added to the liquid so that the morphine alkaloid reacts with the lime to form a solution. The solution is poured through a filter to remove any impurities, such as other alkaloids, that have sunk to the bottom. Concentrated ammonia is added to the solution and is then reheated. The morphine solidifies and settles at the bottom of the pot. A cloth is used to filter out the solid white chunks of morphine base. The morphine base, also known as “Heroin No. 1,” which makes up about 10 percent of the original quantity of raw opium, is wrapped into blocks and dried out in the sun. The blocks are now ready to be shipped to our heroin laboratories.
Morphine to Heroin base
Converting morphine to heroin base, sometimes called “Heroin No. 2,” is more complicated than extracting morphine, but is still a simple process requiring commonly available industrial chemicals and no special tools. The process starts when a mixture of heroin base and acetic acid is heated at 85°C for two hours. During this time, the morphine dissolves. When cooking is completed, the mixture cools and the morphine and the acid chemically bond to form heroin. Next, water is added to the mixture to dissolve the heroin. Sodium carbonate — a common ingredient in soaps — is added to the heroin solution from which finally heroin base results. Depending on the quality of morphine, slightly more than one kilogram of heroin base is made for each kilogram of morphine. Heroin base is further processed into smoking heroin called “Heroin No. 3” or “injectible heroin” called “Heroin No. 4.”