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Afghanistan - heroin trade

Afghanistan provides 93 per cent of world's opium

Article published on the 2009-10-22 Latest update 2009-10-22 10:34 TU

US Marines pour gasoline on bags of confiscated poppy seeds in Helmand province(Credit: Reuters)

US Marines pour gasoline on bags of confiscated poppy seeds in Helmand province
(Credit: Reuters)

The opium trade in Afghanistan has had devastating effects worldwide, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The money from opium also funds the Taliban, which has allowed the rebels to retain their grasp on the country.

UNODC Director Antonio Maria Costa says that this flourishing illicit industry is the result of the failure to crack down on opium farming.

And, despite widespread allegations that officials linked to the government are involved in the trade, the report concentrates on Taliban implication in selling the crop.

"The Taliban's direct involvement in the opium trade allows them to fund a war machine that is becoming technologically more complex and increasingly widespread," said Costa.

UNODC estimates indicate that the Taliban has doubled its income from the poppy trade over the past ten years, earning between 60 and 107 million euros from taxing the the production and smuggling of opium over the past four years.

One of the major problems of the opium trade is how to sufficiently compensate farmers who stop cultivating poppies. The report indicates that roughly half of all Afghans rely on farming as their livelihood.

"With so much opium in evil hands, the need to locate and destroy these stocks is more urgent than ever," said Costa.

Some who switched crops were unable to sustain their families and returned to the more lucrative poppy growing.

"In 2005 and 2006, the vast majority of Nangarhar farmers abstained from cultivating opium poppy but were not able to compensate for the loss in income through other crops," according to the report.

"As a result, opium poppy cultivation bounced back to 18,739 hectacres in 2007."

UNODC statistics on the opium trade:

  • There are 15 million heroin addicts in the world;
  • Heroin causes 100,000 deaths per year;
  • 92 per cent of all opium worldwide comes from Afghanistan;
  • the opium trade is valued at 43 billion euros;
  • Afghanistan's 2009 opium production: 6,900 tonnes;
  • Annual global consumption of opium products: 375 tonnes of heroin and 900 tonnes of opium;
  • Heroin consumption worldwide: Europe - 88 tonnes, Russia - 70 tonnes, North America - 20 tonnes;
  • Main transit areas: Pakistan (40 per cent), Iran (30 per cent), central Asia (30 per cent).


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