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Home > News > Report

Afghanistan will produce 8,200 tons of opium

August 28, 2007 18:38 IST
Last Updated: August 28, 2007 18:40 IST

A survey conducted by the United Nations has reported that opium production in the Helmand province of Afghanistan has increased by a whopping 48 per cent in the last one-year, making it the biggest drug producing area in the world. The report states that opium production in Afghanistan this year will reach a "frighteningly new level" at 8,200 tons, 34 per cent higher than last year.

The flourishing opium trade funds the insurgent activities in the embattled country as Taliban fighters continue to maintain control of the drugs trade in the region. Ironically, the Taliban militia had nearly wiped out opium production in Afghanistan, by banning poppy cultivation during their reign.

"An astonishing 50 per cent of the whole Afghan opium crop comes from one single province: Helmand. With just 2.5 million inhabitants, this relatively rich southern province has become the world's biggest source of illicit drugs, surpassing the output of entire countries such as Colombia (coca), Morocco (cannabis) and Mynamar (opium) - which have populations up to 20 times larger," states the survey, according to UK's The Independent newspaper.

"The results are very bad, terrifyingly bad, because cultivation has increased to an historic level," Antonio Maria Costa, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, told the BBC.

The "benign tolerance of corruption" by Hamid Karzai's government is also responsible for the drastic upsurge in opium production, says Costa.

The Independent says that a defence committee in Afghanistan had warned that uncertainty among Afghans about the role of international forces in poppy eradication could put service personnel at risk.

Though the British government is toying with the idea of forced crop eradication, it is reluctant to entrust its own troops with the unenviable task.

However, American ambassador to Afghanistan William Wood favours crop eradication to deal with the increased opium cultivation. According to Wood, spraying poppy crops with herbicide was "a possibility".

But the Karzai government has rejected crop spraying as such methods can damage the health of the local population and contaminate other crops in the area. This will give the Talibans an opportunity to blame the "occupying forces" of poisoning the Afghan people, says The Independent.

According to the newspaper, the United States has already allotted $449 million (about Rs1,839 crore) to tackle opium production in Afghanistan. The UK, on the other hand, is spending $60 million (about Rs 245 crore) on promoting legal crops such as mint, wheat, chillies and cotton. But it will be a tough task to convince Afghan farmers to give up their lucrative illicit livelihood in favour of a legitimate crop.