Afghanistan’s Opium Production Drops, but Will It Last?

BY Larisa Epatko  September 30, 2010 at 4:50 PM EDT


Afghan opium farmer. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Opium production in Afghanistan has been halved, but with supply dwindling, prices might increase and entice farmers to start growing the illicit crop again. That’s the word from the latest U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime report on the issue.

“This is good news but there is no room for false optimism; the market may again become lucrative for poppy-crop growers so we have to monitor the situation closely,” said Yury Fedotov, executive director of UNODC, in a statement.

The diminished production was mostly the result of disease infecting plants in the major poppy-growing provinces of Helmand and Kandahar in the south. But the report also noted that overall cultivation levels remained the same.

Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s opium, the key ingredient used to make heroin and a funding stream for Taliban extremists. The United States and its allies have spent millions combating its growth.

So will the poppy production issue impact the Taliban? The Christian Science Monitor reports that it’s not likely, as the Taliban relies on several sources of revenue.

Other findings:

  • The price of opium went up 164 percent from $64 per kg in 2009 to $169 per kg this year.
  • Twenty provinces that had no poppy growth in 2009, continued to have no poppy growth in 2010.
  • Most of the poppies are grown in the southern and western provinces, which are the least secure.

View the full UNODC report.