Opium pro­duc­tion soars

Southasia - - Briefing -

Afghanistan is one of the largest sup­pli­ers of opium, the prime in­gre­di­ent in pro­duc­ing heroin. De­spite ef­forts to curb the opium crop, many prov­inces have slipped back into pro­duc­tion, given the hike in the in­ter­na­tional price of opium. Prices rose sharply ow­ing to a short­age in sup­ply from last year when the crops were se­verely af­fected by dis­ease and lit­tle was ex­ported. The prac­tice, seen as mon­e­tar­ily ben­e­fi­cial, is a great busi­ness for many Afghan farm­ers who are other­wise un­able to make both ends meet. Cul­ti­va­tion of poppy in Afghanistan has risen by 7% with 131,000 hectares hav­ing been brought un­der cul­ti­va­tion this year, ac­cord­ing to the UN Of­fice on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence, Afghan Min­is­ter for Counter Nar­cotics, Zerar Ahmed Muq­bel, stated that 1810 hectares in 18 prov­inces had seen erad­i­ca­tion pro­grams which showed a 65% erad­i­ca­tion in­crease as com­pared to last year but medium-term pro­jec­tions were not pos­i­tive; a state­ment that UNODC chief, Yury Fe­do­tov sup­ported.

Pre­vi­ous joint ef­forts by Afghan forces and NATO were suc­cess­ful in stamp­ing out opium pro­duc­tion from many prov­inces. How­ever, the south­ern prov­inces of Hel­mand and Kan­da­har have al­ways re­mained prime pro­duc­ers, gen­er­at­ing close to 80% of to­tal trade. A link be­tween in­se­cu­rity and pro­duc­tion re­cently shows that the trade has re­vived in law­less and re­mote prov­inces, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of prov­inces pro­duc­ing opium to 17 from 14 last year. In­se­cu­rity has been a cen­tral trig­ger that has in­creased pro­duc­tion. Pres­i­dent Karzai has ob­jected to aerial erad­i­ca­tion in the past and man­ual erad­i­ca­tion is seen as in­ef­fec­tive. Many, how­ever, see the rev­enue from opium pro­duc­tion as di­rectly fund­ing the in­sur­gency and have called on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to ad­dress the ‘root cause’ of the prob­lem.

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