The cultivation in Afghanistan of opium poppies – the crop used to make heroin and other drugs – has increased by seven per cent this year because of continued insecurity and higher prices, a United Nations-backed survey reveals today.
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).
In contrast, last year's survey pointed to a drastic decline in production levels due to a disease in the opium plant that caused much of the poppy production to go to waste.
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 include 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.
“Every year, Afghan opium claims tens of thousands of lives worldwide, spreading pain and misery to thousands more,” said UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov.
“In the face of these rising social problems, it is clear the Government of Afghanistan, for the sake of its own people, has a clear incentive to do everything possible to halt the production of opiates. And, the international community can and must do more to assist the Afghanistan Government in their fight against illicit drugs, and HIV and AIDS,” he added.
Mr. Fedotov said UNODC will continue to work with its partners to create cooperation initiatives to tackle the issue, and highlighted the accomplishments of the Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) and the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA).
“I would like to encourage CNPA to increase its seizure rates and MCN to continue with its awareness and eradication programmes. The total amount of hectares eradicated increased by 65 per cent in 2011. However, the area eradicated represents only three per cent of the total cultivation area.”
He stated that UNODC will launch a regional programme for Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries to address the issue.
“The Afghan Government needs to generate a shared sense of commitment across all Government departments. Without this crucial mainstreaming of the issue, the bolstering of the counter-narcotics section of the police service and their integration into police capacity building program, the MCN and the CNPA risk being set up to fail. This must not be allowed to happen.
“I also urge the international community to focus on the causal connections between drug trafficking and insecurity. The production and trafficking of narcotics inhibits security promoting corruption, criminality, instability and insecurity within Afghanistan, the region and internationally.”