Not just opium, Afghanistan biggest producer of Hashish: UN

Last Updated: Thursday, April 1, 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."

PTI



First Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 - 23:40

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