Sharp Increase in Afghan Opium Production and Consumption

Human Wrongs Watch

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.

Heroin seized and destroyed in Afghanistan. Credit: UN

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 on Oct. 11 by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Opium production forms a significant part of the Afghan economy – production alone makes up nine per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, it says. This does not include manufacturing and trafficking profits, which fuel corruption and funding of insurgent groups.The Killing Drug

“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.

Fedotov encouraged the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics to increase its seizure rates, and the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan 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.”

Urgent Measures Also for Consumer Countries

Fedotov also urged 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.”

UNODC chief had already urged anti-drug measures for both Afghanistan and ‘consumer countries’.

In fact, he head called on July 29 for strengthening border controls around Afghanistan –still the world’s leading producer of opium and heroin– boosting security in that country, and lowering demand in so-called “consumer countries.”

In an introduction to a new report “Global Afghan Opium Trade – A Threat Assessment”, Fedotov said that curtailing the Afghan illegal drug trade would “benefit the Afghan people, the wider region and the international community as a whole.”

The Very Lucrative Trafficking in Afghan Opiates

Trafficking in Afghan opiates is… very lucrative, generating some $61 billion in illicit funds in 2009 out of $68 billion for the global illicit opiate trade,” according to the report.

Most of this money went into the pockets of traffickers all along the transnational heroin distribution routes, and some went to insurgents.” Afghan farmers earn relatively little from the trade, the report noted.

Spanning a decade, the report states that some 16.5 million people annually abuse opiates worldwide. Heroin takes the bulk of the market, with 12 million to 13 million people consuming 375 tons of heroin per year; of that, 150 tons are consumed in Europe.

Sharp Increase in Past Decade

According to this UNODC study, opiate consumption in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries has risen sharply in the past decade – 35,000 out of the current 123,000 hectares under poppy cultivation in Afghanistan are needed to produce opiates for this region alone.

But the problem extends far beyond, with Afghan heroin spreading to consumer markets in East Asia traditionally supplied by Myanmar.”

The “past decade” the UNODC refers to coincide with the still ongoing U.S.-led “Enduring Freedom” war in Afghanistan.

The African Heroin Route

Increased heroin flows to Africa, which could re-emerge as a trafficking route to Europe, or lead to more drug consumption on that continent.

Seaports in Pakistan and Iran have been seizing greater amounts of both exported heroin and imported chemicals needed by Afghan drug manufacturers to produce heroin.


Also read:

U.S.-led “Enduring Freedom”: Systematic Torture and Abuse in Afghan Prisons

Afghanistan: the Forgotten War the West Can’t Win

U.S-Backed Afghan Police and Militia Behind Killings and Rape

Afghanistan, The Worst Place To Be A Mother Or A Child

2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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