10/22/2014, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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Opium poppy cultivation hits record-high in Afghanistan

Opium poppy production covers a record 209,000 hectares in 2013, providing nearly 90 per cent of the world's supply. The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) calls into question the efficacy of the US$ 7.6 billion counter-narcotics strategy.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Afghan farmers grew a record 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, up from the prior record in 2007 of 193,000 hectares, this according to the latest data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The information provided US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), General John Sopko, the opportunity to write a letter Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, calling into question the efficacy of the US$ 7.6 billion counter-narcotics effort aimed at curbing the illicit trade

In his letter, General John Sopko said that Afghanistan's opium poppy production was valued at US billion in 2013 - a 50 per cent increase from the previous year - and that Afghanistan continues to produce nearly 90 per cent of the world's supply.

Even worse, these figures are projected to climb as security deteriorates in rural Afghanistan and eradication efforts lose steam.

"In past years, surges in opium poppy cultivation have been met by a coordinated response from the U.S. government and coalition partners, which has led to a temporary decline in levels of opium production," General Sopko wrote.

"The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts," he added.

Until 2009, Washington favoured a more aggressive eradication approach that frequently had the exact opposite effect as intended, fuelling corruption at the local level.

Since Afghanistan's central government is so weak, eradication programmes were typically enforced or administered by the country's powerful warlords, with the tiny fraction of crops that were eradicated usually belonging to their political enemies.

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