Afghan opium output drops 50 per cent: UN

Last Updated: Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 18:03

Kabul: Opium output in Afghanistan, the
world`s biggest producer of the drug, has dropped by almost a
half this year due to a crop disease but its value has soared,
a UN report said on Thursday.

Afghanistan has produced an estimated 3,600 tonnes of
opium this year, almost 50 per cent of the 2009 output,
according to the UN`s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

But the value of the opium rose by 38 per cent to USD 604
million at the farm gate, its Afghanistan Opium Survey 2010
said.

The report, released in Kabul, put the value of opium
output at five per cent of Afghanistan`s gross domestic
product (GDP) this year, and said this was more than six times
the value of the country`s wheat crop.

Afghanistan produces around 90 per cent of the world`s
opium.

The report said the decline was caused by a disease that
affected opium poppy fields in the major growing provinces,
mainly Helmand and Kandahar, where the Taliban insurgency is
concentrated.

"The major effect of the disease was visible in the
yield, which dropped to 29.2 kilograms per hectare, a 48 per
cent reduction from 2009," the report said.

The report said the planted area remained the same at
1,23,000 hectares, with 96 per cent of production in southern
and western provinces.

It also found that the number of households involved in
opium cultivation rose by one per cent to 2, 48,700, involving
six per cent of the country`s estimated population, the same
as in 2009.

It said that almost all cultivation "took place in nine
provinces in the southern and western regions including the
most insecure provinces in the country."

"This further substantiates the link between insecurity
and opium cultivation observed since 2007," it said.

The Taliban, who have been waging war on the Kabul
government for almost nine years, are believed to get much of
their funding from Afghanistan`s drug production, which is
valued at close to USD three billion a year.

Their presence in parts of the south, particularly the
central Helmand valley where much of Afghanistan`s poppy is
grown, is directly linked to cultivation and distribution of
opium and heroin.

Their involvement in the drugs trade is said by experts
to stretch from direct facilitation, such as providing farmers
with seed, fertiliser and cash advances on their crop, to
distribution and protection.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 18:03
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