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article imageOpium profits and production decline in Afghanistan

By Kay Mathews     Sep 2, 2009 in World
Land used in Afghanistan for the cultivation of opium has declined 22 percent in two years. Many Afghan fields formerly filled with poppy flowers, needed to make heroin, are now wheat fields.
A Sept. 2 report in The New York Times indicates that “opium, which accounted for 27 percent of Afghanistan’s economy in 2002, now accounts for just 4 percent.”
While that is good news for law enforcement who work to stem the trafficking of illicit drugs, Afghan farmers see it differently. “Opium farmers benefit nothing from the crops and spend their day and night in misery,” said Dost Mohammad, a farmer in Helmand province, to the Times.
The Helmand province of Afghanistan produces enough opium to satisfy almost all of the heroin addicts on the planet. Yet, earnings for opium farmers have declined significantly within the past two years. In 2007, opium farmers "could earn 10 times as much as a farmer growing wheat on the same piece of land. Today, it is only worth three times as much.”
Heroin is made by converting the pods of the poppy flower into paste, which is then refined and exported around the world.
This year, in Helmand, many fields formerly filled with colorful poppy flowers are green wheat fields. And, within the country of Afghanistan as a whole, “22 percent less land is cultivated with opium than last year.”
Adam Khan, a smuggler who operates within several Helmand districts, is quoted as saying:
The low price and the government’s eradication operations in districts and villages previously controlled by the Taliban have badly affected the trade. I used to sell five kilos (11 pounds) for 40,000 Pakistani rupees ($480). Now it is not more than 15,000 to 16,000.
Still, some opium traders have no intention of abandoning their work. Mohammad Usman, a Toyota Landcruiser-driving, satellite cell phone-carrying opium trader, said to the Times:
This is my business, if I profit or if lose money, I still can’t think of alternatives. I understand that the prices have come down but no other crop can give me more than this.
More about Afghan, Opium, Afghanistan, Heroin
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