Opium farming in Afghanistan is expected to grow for a third consecutive year. A UN report claims that it is now at a higher level than under the Taliban.
Opium fetches a high price once turned into heroin and sold illegally, lining the pockets of traffickers and insurgents. The UN wants decisive action.
“It is a very, very worrying situation, because if you see in a speculative market when there is an increase in cultivation, Afghanistan is to turn into a narco-state unless there is a comprehensive strategy that is adopted now” said Ashita Mittal, Deputy Representative for United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Poppy production could expand to areas not traditionally associated with opium, despite efforts by the government and international forces. The reward appears too high.
Noor Mohammad, an opium poppy farmer said, “Harvesting wheat is only for food, it can’t buy us other stuff or clothes or what we need for living. 4.5 kilogrammes of opium is equivalent to more than five tons of wheat.”
There is a clear link between lack of security and agricultural aid and the increase in poppy fields.
Western troops are due to leave in under two years, and with them much of the capacity to curb opium production.