The UN says it believes the bottom is starting to fall out of the world’s largest opium market.
A new report says cultivation of the opium poppy in Afghanistan has fallen dramatically this year, with production also down. Prices for the poppy, which is used to make heroin, have also tumbled.
Afghanistan is said to produce 90 percent of the world’s opium. But this year production is down 10 percent and there is a drop of 22 percent in the amount of land used for cultivation.
The country’s Counter-Narcotics Minister, General Khudaidad, said: “The situation of drugs in Afghanistan is under control. In the coming years I assure you that we are very hopeful of having more provinces reaching zero opium cultivation.”
Most of the reduction in cultivation has been in the country’s most violent province, Helmand, which is Afghanistan’s opium growing heartland.
6,900 tonnes of opium are said to have been produced in Afghanistan this year, far more than the 5,000 estimated to be consumed by the world’s drug users. But there is also an estimated stockpile in secret locations of 10,000 tonnes, a reserve thought to be used to bump up prices.
Just over six percent of the population, or some 1.6 million Afghans are said to be involved in the illegal drugs trade, but that is reported to be down by 800,000 compared to last year.
The authorities say the opium industry is mainly controlled by criminal gangs and corrupt officials, with the Taliban able to siphon off millions of euros from the profits.