Afghanistan’s opium cultivation – which had dropped sharply in 2001 – is back up to a “relatively high level” throughout the country, according to the results of a survey released today by the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP).
UNDCP estimated that opium poppy fields in Afghanistan could cover an area between 45,000 to 65,000 hectares in 2002. This range is comparable to the levels of cultivation reached during the mid-1990s, while remaining lower than the 82,000 hectares recorded in 2000.
Calculating the harvest based on average yields over the past eight years, the UN drug control agency estimated that Afghanistan could produce between 1,900 and 2,700 metric tonnes of opium this year.
Although the Afghan interim authorities outlawed opium poppy cultivation, most fields had already been sown when the ban was issued on 17 January. UNDCP reported that farmers participating in the survey said they were uncertain about being able to harvest their opium because of the ban, but the agency noted that “high prices offered by local traders create a powerful incentive.”
Later this year, UNDCP will conduct a comprehensive survey covering all opium poppy growing villages in Afghanistan to gain more detailed data on cultivation and production in 2002.