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Illicit Drug Trade Fuels Afghan Economy

Officials say the drug trade in Afghanistan threatens efforts to create a strong central government and rebuild the country's economy, in a year when production of the poppy crop increased by 59 percent. ITN correspondent Alex Thomson reports on the flourishing drug trade.

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  • ALEX THOMSON, ITV News Correspondent:

    The farmers of southern Afghanistan say it's been the best opium harvest in decades. Ahmed Ollah is a small farmer, just a couple of acres. Some have a couple of hundred put out to poppy, year in, year out. And with 18 family members to support, he's desperate for the opium cash. It will keep them all for the coming year.

  • AFGHAN OPIUM FARMER (through translator):

    We don't have any other income, nor do we have any other jobs. Also, the government doesn't provide any other options. If we had an alternative, we wouldn't have been growing opium.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    The government wants to provide people with alternative crops, but Habib, Ahmed's brother, says the profits on things like wheat are hopeless.

  • AFGHAN OPIUM FARMER (through translator):

    The way things are right now, the margins on growing wheat on such a small area of land wouldn't even cover the fuel costs of the machinery, so there's no alternative. And if the smugglers are happy with the product, we have ourselves a deal.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    Many, many people have themselves a deal. Right now across the country, the agents of the big smugglers fan out to the growers large and small. Mansour Khan's one of the biggest smugglers, and his agents come to see Ahmad, to cut the deal on which his family will survive for the coming year.

  • AFGHAN OPIUM FARMER (through translator):

    We have some opium here.

  • OPIUM PURCHASER (through translator):

    Show me what you have.

  • AFGHAN OPIUM FARMER (through translator):

    Do you like the quality?

  • OPIUM PURCHASER (through translator):

    It's OK, but it's not quite dry.

  • AFGHAN OPIUM FARMER (through translator):

    That's the best we could get, considering the bad weather. It will be good if it sells, because we really need the money.

  • OPIUM PURCHASER (through translator):

    It's not really what I'm looking for, but considering your desperate situation, I can make you an offer.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    Ahmad has 800 kilos of opium. He wants $50 a kilo. Mansour Khan's agent offers $35. Ahmad counters with $40, and they settle on $37.