Not just opium, Afghanistan biggest producer of Hashish: UN
Last Updated: Thursday, April 01, 2010, 23:40
United Nations: Afghanistan the world's biggest producer of opium is also a major cultivator of cannabis, a narcotic plant from which dreaded drug 'hasish' is made, according to a UN survey.

"While other countries have even larger cannabis cultivation, the astonishing yield of the Afghan cannabis crop makes Afghanistan the world's biggest producer of hashish, estimated at between 1,500 and 3,500 tons a year", said Antonio Maria Costa, the chief of the United Nations Organisation on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The UN's Afghanistan Cannabis Survey is based on data from 1,634 villages in 20 provinces. It shows that there is large-scale cannabis plant cultivation in half (17 of 34) of Afghanistan's provinces, according to a press release provided by the UNODC. Hashish is the resin produced from Cannabis.

The gross income gained per hectare of cannabis plant (USD 3,900) is higher than that of opium poppy (USD 3,600).

"In the past five years, cannabis cultivation has shifted away from the north to the south of Afghanistan.

Like opium, cannabis cultivation is now concentrated in regions of instability, namely the south of the country", said Costa.

The study finds that it is three times cheaper to cultivate a hectare of cannabis plant than a hectare of opium poppy.

So, the net income of a hectare of cannabis plant is USD 3,341 compared to USD 2,005 per hectare of opium poppy.

But the opium poppy is still favoured over cannabis plant among Afghan farmers because the cannabis plant has a short shelf life and grows in summer, when less water is available for irrigation.

"Alternatives are essential. Yesterday farmers' gained income from illicit crops. Tomorrow we must move them to licit livelihoods," said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UNODC?s representative in Afghanistan.

"Today is the challenge. Development will not come in a day, you cannot serve asphalt for dinner on the family table," he added.

A report issued by the UNODC in February found Afghanistan's opium cultivation has stabilised and its production could decline this year.

Costa underlined that the drug problem could be rooted out by development and strong governance.

"Afghanistan's drug problem is even more complex than just the opium trade", he said.

"By improving governance and development in Afghanistan's drug-producing regions, we can knock out the world's biggest supplies of both hash and heroin."


First Published: Thursday, April 01, 2010, 23:40

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