Recession, tighter finances, job loss and other consequences impact crime types, levels and location. Crime by its nature tends to be localised, yet some cause global ripples.

ayeFor instance, there are strong links between rural development in developing countries and illegal drugs trade and use. Most of the supply comes from developing countries, such as The_Golden_Triangle. Small farmers, small crops, high value, low visibility.

While demand is widespread, it is concentrated by volume in developed countries. US leads illegal drug use.  New Zealand is a close second. And there is emerging evidence that demand for this illegal category appears recession-proof.

Yet, production evidence from the fields are opposite – opium cultivation in Afghanistan fell by 19% in 2008 while cocaine production in Colombia dropped 28%, says new UNODC report .

Does this show success in eradication techniques? such as increased incentives for rural farmers to change to alternative produiction and livelihoods? What does higher demand and lower supply mean for producers? For conventional goods, we would expect some higher prices and possibly stronger bargaining position. But this is uncoventional production, supply chains, trade, export, import and sale.

The complex trade has a range of trends:

  • One of the major reasons for this year’s drop in supply is what one drugs official called a “perfect storm“. With falling opium prices – more farmers opted to grow wheat, which has seen prices shoot up.
  • Production and consumption of synthetic drugs are reported to be growing. 
  • Traders and middlemen are reported to becoming stronger, competition among middlemen is becoming fiercer.
  • Purity levels and seizures in main consumer countries are reported to be down.

This appears to be bad for the coffers of rural parts of developing countries, but there are signs that production of synthetic substances has shifted to developing countries – reportedly in the Greater Mekong sub-region – and yet mostly in urban areas.

While Sustainableslump never condones illegality, we all live alongside this trade, we venerate it on TV and our police and governments tolerate it. Recession proof trades that provide resilient support to rural populations in developing countries have distinct advantages from a development perspective and raise arguments about official interventions even support along the supply chain. A shift to urban production raises many questions about the nature and targeting of support to these countries and our role in helping these countries develop appropriately.