KANDAHAR: As the world's largest opium producer, Afghanistan's steady increase has had a direct impact on global opium cultivation, which reached record levels last year, triggering “a large increase” in cheaper heroin supply around the world, the United Nations said in a report last year.

But this happened despite opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan decreasing 19 per cent in 2015 over the previous year, after rising six years in a row, says the latest available Afghanistan Opium Survey.

The area under opium poppy cultivation in 2015 is estimated to be 183,000 hectares (ha), compared with 224,000 ha in 2014. The cultivation area had decreased for the first time since 2009.

Almost 90 per cent of Afghanistan's poppy cultivation is in the south and the west, and provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar, longtime Taliban strongholds, have become synonymous for poppy cultivation.

As opium production rises, so does Afghanistan's own drug addiction problem.

Estimates put the number of heroin addicts in the country at between 1.5 million and 2 million in a population estimated at around 30 million.

And the unchecked Afghan opium production is also blamed for rising drug addiction in neighboring countries, including the former Soviet republics to the north, Iran to the west, and China and Pakistan to the east.

A harvested poppy is seen at a poppy field in Zari district. ─ AP
A harvested poppy is seen at a poppy field in Zari district. ─ AP
An Afghan farmer harvests opium sap from a poppy field in Zari District of Kandahar province.  ─ AFP
An Afghan farmer harvests opium sap from a poppy field in Zari District of Kandahar province. ─ AFP
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in Zari District. ─ AFP
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in Zari District. ─ AFP
An Afghan farmer harvests opium sap from a poppy field in Zari. ─ AFP
An Afghan farmer harvests opium sap from a poppy field in Zari. ─ AFP
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in Zari. ─ AFP
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in Zari. ─ AFP
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in Zari. ─ AFP
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in Zari. ─ AFP
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in Zari. ─ AFP
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in Zari. ─ AFP
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in Zari. ─ AFP
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in Zari. ─ AFP
An Afghan child harvests raw opium at a poppy field in Zari. ─ AP
An Afghan child harvests raw opium at a poppy field in Zari. ─ AP
Afghan farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in Zari. ─ AP
Afghan farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in Zari. ─ AP
An Afghan child carries a shovel on his shoulder as he walks in a poppy field in Zari. ─ AP
An Afghan child carries a shovel on his shoulder as he walks in a poppy field in Zari. ─ AP

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Comments (19) Closed



Eddie - (Nakli wala) Apr 12, 2016 02:35pm

I wish we could blame these poor farmers for opium cultivation and making the world a more nasty place than it is. But i will chose to blame the Soviet Union for waging a decade long war with afghans, and USA and their Taliban who created them and made them war mongers. These poor fellow are just trying to make another day by doing what they know and are best at. Only if america has invested in agricultural programs instead of providing them with ammunition.

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AA Apr 12, 2016 02:44pm

Such beautiful pictures...

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Naveed Apr 12, 2016 03:02pm

@Eddie - (Nakli wala) Very true. This is the easiest means of bringing cash flow for the families. This will be very hard to control until the people have another means to earn their bread.

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a Apr 12, 2016 03:07pm

Poverty forces people to do whatever they can to make ends meet. Poppy cultivation is of course easy money. Terrorists and Taliban use it to fund their activities. Its nearly impossible to eradicate.

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Tamilselvan Apr 12, 2016 03:41pm

There won't be a market if there is no demand either. Cleanup should start first in the countries where they are used and punishment should be more severe and addicts must undergo treatment too. FYI Mexico is a producer of opium and the destination is USA. Synthetic heroin is getting popular too

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Mir Ali Apr 12, 2016 04:44pm

I fail to understand why all neighbouring countries are not proactively doing anything about the menace of opium and the addiction it poses. A proactive approach could be setting up a pharmaceutical plant which buys up all the opium produced to convert them to painkillers like opiates morphine etc. This will soak up all opium smuggling while providing farmers with a stable income the pharmaceutical plants could employ women into their work force thereby providing financial empowerment to thousands of rural families in Afghanistan. This not only tackles the problem proactively but also helps in financial betterment of thousands of rural poor in Afghanistan

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aslam shaikh Apr 12, 2016 04:44pm

Guess which Afghan government had brought this harvest to almost zero? It was the Taliban who used strict rules to stop this.

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Mir Ali Apr 12, 2016 04:46pm

In addition to my previous comment This could help kickstart a pharmaceutical industry in Afghanistan with these opiates sold all over the world

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aslam shaikh Apr 12, 2016 04:47pm

And US will keep their bases perpetually to control production and supply.

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Matt Apr 12, 2016 09:43pm

@Mir Ali - Your idea makes sense, and has given me much to think about. Thank you for providing it.

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Something Fishy Apr 12, 2016 10:00pm

How many know that opium is not even a fraction as dangerous as heroin is and there are some chemicals those are needed to convert opium into heroin. And there is hardly any other use of those chemicals, specially in a non industrial country like Afghanistan.

And guess who is the supplier (legally exporting! wow) of those chemicals?

It is the great friend of Afghanistan and the new love found darling of the west!

You got it, India.

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Einstein Babar Apr 13, 2016 01:24pm

American budget of Afghan and Iraq war is equal to USD 75,000 per person living in both of these countries. This is a clear message from west that they just pretend for human goodness while business is their core purpose.

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Mir Ali Apr 13, 2016 08:14pm

In Tasmania, Australia a very large pharmaceutical company buys all of the opium from the farmers ( they are banned to sell elsewhere) the pharmaceutical plant is located nearby employing locals. This company manufactures codene, morphates and other painkillers and exports them all over the world perhaps worth replicating on a much wider scale in Afghanistan the provinces of Helmand and adjacent provinces are at the forefront of opium production where it's converted to heroin and other illegal drugs and blighting the lives of millions of people in Pakistan Afghanistan Iran and nearby Central Asian countries including India and must be tackled immediately

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imtiaz faruqui Apr 14, 2016 01:47am

Afghanistan produces 90% of the world opium, which is needed by all pharmacutical compaies in the world, this belong to the people of Afghanistan, the current war can be called the war to snatch opium, by the NATO and the Talibams will not give up so easly.

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Zubeida Aapa Apr 14, 2016 02:37am

Beautiful flower producing such deadly products

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Hassan Zahoor Khan Apr 14, 2016 10:51am

Beautiful Pictures. Beautiful Afghanistan !

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Shikhar Soni Apr 14, 2016 08:58pm

Beautiful pictures though.

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Mustafa Apr 15, 2016 12:35am

Afghan government must invest in agriculture for the sake of its own people in particular and rest of the world in general. US must help Afghanistan on diversifying the Afghanistan agriculture and creating jobs other than agriculture. It is heart breaking to see the kids helping their fathers with this menace. One can't blame the kids.

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Karthik Apr 15, 2016 11:13am

Dawn. I really admire the pictures you publish. I have never seen any other guys post such beautiful ones. Well done.

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