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Afghanistan’s opium production shoots up by 43pc

Afghanistan’s opium production shoots up by 43pc

Oct 23, 2016 - 15:26

KABUL (Pajhwok): Afghanistan’s opium production rose by 43 per cent to 4,800 metric tons and cultivation by 10 per cent during the current year, compared with 2015 levels, However, eradication of the illicit crop significantly dropped by 91 percent  Reveals the latest United Nations survey.

The survey figures indicate the counter-narcotics effort has faltered this year, which saw the security situation deteriorate in many provinces.

At the launch of the survey in Kabul on Monday, the counter-narcotics minister linked the production rise and the fall in eradication levels to the security problem and donor countries’ failure to honour their aid pledges in time. 

Salamat Azimi told reporters the summer season arrived earlier this year, one of the factors behind the failure of the organs concerned to eradicate the illegal crop to a large extent.

The illicit crop on 355 hectares of land was eradicated in Badakhshan, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Nimroz, Sar-i-Pul, Takhar and Laghman provinces, she said, acknowledging the campaign could not be implemented elsewhere in the country.

Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, deputy head of the counter-narcotics department at Ministry of Interior, also admitted the increase in opium cultivation and production this year. But given the security problem and other issues, he said, the increase was insignificant.

He added security issues, including continued fighting, contributed to the rise in poppy cultivation and opium production. Much of the outlawed crop was grown in militant-controlled areas, he argued.

Although counter-narcotics police remained busy fighting against terrorism, they have conducted 1,263 operations against drugs in different parts of the country during the past seven months, Ahmadi continued. As a result of the raids, more than 237 tons of drugs were seized and 1,408 suspects detained.

UNODC head in Afghanistan Andrey Avetisyan also blamed the rise in opium yield this year on escalating insecurity and declining international assistance.

More opium cultivated in the southern part of the country little in the northern and central part of Afghanistan, says the survey.

According to Azimi, more poppy crops were grown in insecure zones. Insecurity and poppy cultivation issues were inter-twined, he commented, saying drugs constituted an important revenue source for the insurgents.

The number of poppy-free provinces fell to 13 in 2016 from 14 in the previous year. This year, most opium cultivated in the southern part of the country little in the northern and central part of Afghanistan, says the survey.

Helmand, with some 80,273 ha (40 per cent of the total), remained the major poppy-cultivating province. It is followed by Badghis (35,234 ha), Kandahar (20,475 ha), Uruzgan (15,503 ha), Nangarhar (14,344 ha), Farah (9,101 ha), Badakhshan (6,298 ha) and Nimroz (5,303 ha).

During the current, poppy cultivation dropped by 57 per cent in Farah, 40 per cent in in Nimroz, 30 per cent in Ghor, 27 per cent in Herat, 7 per cent in Helmand, 3 per cent in Kandahar, and two percent in Daikundi, the annual UNODC report said.

However, in Kabul, Kapisa, Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh , Faryab, Jawzjan, Sar-i-Pul, Uruzgan, Zabul and Badghis, poppy sowing increased by 24pc, 32pc, 29pc, 77pc, 43pc, 55pc, 373pc, 921pc, 152pc, 100pc, 409pc, 37pc, 112pc and 184pc respectively.

The counter-narcotics minister attributed the fall in poppy cultivation in certain provinces to a variety of factors, including the alternative livelihood scheme, growing public awareness, a fall in demand and the Good Performers Initiative (GPI).

Illicit drugs have been a long-running problem Afghanistan has been faced with. However, since 2001, bumper poppy crops were cultivated in 2014, 2013 and 2016.

Azimi called drugs an international issue, which could be effectively dealt with through regional and global cooperation with Afghanistan. She expected continued assistance from the global fraternity in the war on drugs.

Afghanistan has received billions of dollars in aid over the past 14 years to eradicate narcotics. The United States alone has paid Afghanistan 8.5 billion dollars, says the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction.

The latest UN survey shows a worrying reversal in efforts to combat the persistent problem of illicit drugs and their impact on development, health and security. The UNODC wants the world to lend its support to achieving the sustainable development goals in Afghanistan, including work on a peaceful and inclusive society, health, poverty, peaceand gender equality.

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