Wednesday, October 12, 2011



Note: Just change the names.

11 October 2011 Last updated at 07:08 ET

Afghan opium production 'rises by 61%' compared with 2010
The per-hectare price of opium more than doubled

Opium production in Afghanistan rose by 61% this year compared with
2010, according to a UN report.

The increase has been attributed to rising opium prices that have
driven farmers to expand cultivation of the illicit opium poppy by 7%
in 2011.

Last year opium production halved largely due to a plant infection
which drastically reduced yields.

Afghanistan produces 90% of the world's opium - 5,800 tonnes this
year - the main ingredient of heroin.

Analysts say that revenue from the drug has helped fund the Taliban

Farmers who responded to the survey described economic hardship and
lucrative prices as the main reasons for the increase.

Nearly 80% of the opium grown in Afghanistan is being produced in
provinces in the south, including Helmand and Kandahar, which are
among the most volatile in the country.

The UN says this demonstrates that there is a clear link between
insecurity and opium cultivation.

Troubling trend
However the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Kabul says that growing pressure
from the government and successful counter-narcotics operations have
led to a slight decrease in cultivation in some areas, which is being
seen as a positive trend.

Bilal Sarwary
Lack of security in the countryside is a major factor when tackling
opium production and this is something the Taliban and drug dealers
have been able to exploit.

Farmers can be coerced into growing poppies against the backdrop of
war and devastation, a lack of infrastructure and no meaningful
government intervention.

There is ample evidence that the poppy cultivation and the drugs
business in general fuels militant groups and the insurgency.

Experts say that any new strategy to tackle the issue should be
Afghan-specific and should start by trying to win the hearts and
minds of farmers and understanding their daily needs.

One long term solution might be that the international community
funds the Afghan government to establish schemes to purchase crops
from farmers at consistent and fair prices.

At the same time, the country's agricultural and irrigation
infrastructure must be upgraded.

The rise in production came even though the Afghan government and
Nato have increased crop eradication measures by 65% and made
significant seizures in recent months.

The report says that there are now 17 provinces in Afghanistan
affected by poppy cultivation, up from 14 one year ago.

Three provinces that had been declared "poppy free" - enabling them
to receive extra development funding - have slipped back and are now
opium producers again, the report said.

Correspondents say that the rise in opium production will worry Nato
commanders as they try to stabilise the country so that they can hand
over security responsibilities to the government.

The report says that dry opium costs about 43% more than it did a
year ago, providing farmers who grow it with an extra windfall.

The per-hectare price of opium more than doubled to $10,700 (£6852)
from $4,900 (£3137), according to the report.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the head of UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
in Afghanistan, said that the extra revenue was helping to fund crime.

"We cannot afford to ignore the record profits for non-farmers, such
as traders and insurgents, which in turn fuels corruption,
criminality and instability. This is a distressing situation," he
said in a statement.

Mr Lemahieu said that if the profits of manufacturing and trafficking
heroin are taken into account, opium is a significant part of the
Afghan economy.

Experts say the Taliban's involvement in the drugs trade ranges from
direct involvement - such as providing farmers with seed, fertiliser
and cash advances for their crop - to distribution and protection.

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