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.


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

Tag: AfghanopiumUN
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