Narcotic producer TPI Enterprises will import more than 4000 tonnes of European opium poppies as Australians continue to pop painkillers like there’s no tomorrow.

The use of opiate-based medications such as codeine and morphine have more than quadrupled in Australia since 2010, driving the expansion of local manufacturing operations which process poppies into narcotic raw materials.

Our pain-killing addiction is fed by three Australian poppy processing plants – locally owned TPI Enterprises (ASX:TPE), India’s Sun Pharma and Tasmanian Alkaloids a strategic partner of AusCann (ASX:AC8).

Australia — specifically Tasmania — is one of the world’s biggest (legal) suppliers of poppies according to the Poppy Advisory and Control Board.

But the foreign blooms are cheaper — which has had an impact on local growers.

European imports were given the green light from the national biosecurity advisory late last year, despite concerns raised by Poppy Growers Tasmania.

Initial poppy plantings in NSW were made in May this year — joining crops in Victoria and Tasmania — but plans to expand to the rest of the country were put on hold.

“Growing in South Australia and the Northern Territory was de-prioritised due to the cost advantages of imported European straw supply options and the potential of NSW and Victoria,” TPE said.

“Further European growing countries are currently being evaluated as new potential sites.”

TPE, which listed in August 2015, raised $44 million in March to partially pay down debt.

The group posted an $8.8 million loss in the half-year to June 30, on revenue of $6 million.

It’s hoped the introduction of foreign poppies into the mix will allow an increase to 100 tonnes of production next year.

360 tonnes of Hungarian straw has arrived at our Melbourne facility for processing and a further 256 tonnes of Hungarian straw are en route on the water,” TPE said. “The Hungarian straw harvest is being completed and 900 tonnes of contracted material is planned to be on the water by end October,” 

In total, we expect to receive 5400 tonnes of poppy straw from imports in 2017 and 6600 tonnes of poppy straw from imports in 2018.”

TPE fell 1c to $2.41 yesterday. Its shares have traded between $1.80 and $3.15 over the past year.