Opium Production Soars ‘High’ in Afghanistan

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A United Nations-backed survey showed a dramatic rise of the price and production of opium in Afghanistan.

The joint survey also shows that the farm-gate income from the narcotic probably amounted to over $1.4 billion, equivalent to nine per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Released today by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), reveals a 133 per cent increase in the farm-gate value of opium compared with the previous year.

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Capsule of Papaver somniferum showing latex (opium) exuding from incision.

Export earnings from Afghan opiates may be worth $2.4 billion, equivalent to 15 per cent of GDP.

“Opium is therefore a significant part of the Afghan economy and provides considerable funding to the insurgency and fuels corruption.” – Yury Fedotov, the UNODC Executive Director

Opium production forms a significant part of the Afghan economy – production alone makes up nine per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). This does not inclu de manufacturing and trafficking profits, which fuel corruption and funding of insurgent groups.

Afghanistan also suffers from one of the highest rates of opium consumption in the world, with a prevalence rate of 2.65 per cent. This has sparked other problems in the country such as an HIV epidemic among the country’s injecting drug users.

Almost 60 per cent of farmers surveyed last year said they were primarily motivated by the high prices fetched by opium poppy cultivation.

The gross per hectare income from opium cultivation ($10,700) therefore also reached levels not observed since 2003.

Cultivation reached 131,000 hectares, compared to 123,000 hectares in the previous two years, and the amount of opium produced rose from 3,600 tons last year to 5,800 tons according to the 2011 Afghan Opium Survey released by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

“The Afghan Opium Survey 2011 sends a strong message that we cannot afford to be lethargic in the face of this problem. We thank the Government of Afghanistan for the leadership and dedication already shown, but a stronger commitment from a broad range of national and international partners is needed to turn this worrying trend around.” – Mr. Fedotov

The increase in Afghanistan’s illicit drug production correlates with a rise in drug abuse among its neighbors. According to the World Drug Report 2006, Afghanistan’s neighbors in South and Central Asia are among the countries with the highest drug use.

Afghanistan is the largest cultivator of the opium poppy, responsible for most of the illicit opium, heroin and opium derivatives hitting world markets. This makes the Afghan poppy harvest a global problem, and is why international backers including the United States have funded programs since 2001 to help the Afghan government eradicate opium poppy cultivation.

The U.S. government has spent more than $300 million in the past two years on developing alternative livelihoods in Afghanistan.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.