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August 22nd, 2002
Bitter Harvest
Map: From Poppy Field to Western Markets: Opium Production in Afghanistan

In the 1990s, Afghanistan became the world’s largest producer of opium poppy, the plant whose pods are used to make opium, heroin and morphine. The Taliban’s 2000 ban on poppy cultivation drastically reduced crop yields, but a fresh ban introduced in January 2002 by the Afghan Interim Administration has proven less effective. The United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) estimates that Afghan land dedicated to opium poppy cultivation — some 45,000 to 65,000 hectares — is up to eight and a half times larger than the amount for 2001.

Badakhshan

Opium poppy cultivation is most prevalent throughout Afghanistan’s northern provinces. In 2001, Badakhshan province was the country’s top opium poppy producer. Land dedicated to poppy cultivation in Badakhshan has doubled since 2000, making the province likely to hold on to its top producer position for 2002 as well. Farmers without irrigated fields take advantage of the good climate conditions and plant in rain-fed fields in Badakhsan.

Area Cultivated:
8,325 hectares (2002 estimate)

Poppy Harvest:
June to August

Market Price:
$240/kilogram (May 2002)

Badghis

Opium production strikes rock bottom in Afghanistan’s northwestern province of Badghis with just 26 hectares of land dedicated to cultivation of opium poppies. But prices in Badghis are relatively high — about $605 per kilogram as of February 2002. These relatively robust prices resulted from the province’s proximity to three opium market areas on the Turkmenistan border where demand is high. Even so, the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) has found that the government’s January 2002 ban on poppy cultivation has made farmers in the northwest less likely to grow the plant.

Area Cultivated:
26 hectacres (2002 estimate)

Poppy Harvest:
June to August

Market Price:
$605/kilogram (May 2002)

Helmand

Helmand province was Afghanistan’s top producer in 2000. The ban on poppy cultivation introduced by President Hamid Karzai’s government in January 2002 had little effect on this province where Kajaki district farmers were re-ploughing wheat fields in February to replant with the more financially lucrative opium poppy.

Area Cultivated:
25,000 to 35,000 hectares (2002 estimate)

Poppy Harvest:
April to May

Market Price:
No Data

Nangarhar

Nangarhar province was Afghanistan’s second largest cultivator of opium poppy in 2000. In some areas of Nangarhar where fields are irrigated by a canal near Jalalabad, opium poppy fields account for 20 percent of all cultivated land.

Area Cultivated:
12,000 to 18,000 (2002 estimate)

Poppy Harvest:
April to May

Market Price:
$381/kilogram (May 2002)

Sources: UNDCP, “Opium: A History” by Martin Booth

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