Taliban announce ban on harvesting poppies

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Afghan farmers harvest poppy in Nad Ali district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Friday, April 1, 2022
Afghan farmers harvest poppy in Nad Ali district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Friday, April 1, 2022   -   Copyright  Credit: AP Photo/Abdul Khaliq

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban announced a ban on harvesting poppies, even as farmers in some parts of the country began extracting the opium from the plant that is needed for making heroin.

The Taliban warned farmers that their crops will be burned and that they can be jailed if they proceed with the harvest.

The harvest and planting seasons vary across Afghanistan. In the Taliban heartland of southern Kandahar the harvesting has begun, but in the east of the country, some farmers are just beginning to plant their crop.

In desperately poor Afghanistan the ban seems certain to further impoverish its poorest citizens at a time when the country is in an economic free fall.

The decree was announced by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid at a news conference in the capital of Kabul.

The order also outlawed the manufacturing of narcotics and the transportation, trade, export and import of heroin, hashish and alcohol.

The ban is reminiscent of the previous Taliban rule in the late 1990s when the movement espousing a harsh interpretation of Islam outlawed poppy production.

At that time, the ban was implemented countrywide within two years, and according to the U.N., largely helped eradicate poppy production.

However, after the ousting of the Taliban in 2001, farmers in many parts of the country returned to poppy production.

Poppies are the main source of income for millions of small farmers and day labourers who can earn upwards of $300 (€274) a month harvesting them and extracting the opium.

Today, Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, despite billions of dollars spent by the international community during its 20 years in Afghanistan to eradicate the drug.

In 2021, before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan produced more than 6,000 tonnes of opium, which the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said could potentially yield 320 tonnes of pure heroin.

Afghanistan produces more opium than all opium-producing countries combined and last year was the sixth straight year of record opium harvests.