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UN: Afghan Opium Production Has Dropped

2018-11-19

A new United Nations report finds that opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is now 20 percent lower than it was in 2017. The report noted a lack of rainfall and falling prices of dry opium across the country.

The dried latex form of the poppy plant can be used to make heroin and other opioid drugs. Afghanistan is the world’s leading producer of opium-poppy.

The new report said the total land area for growing the plants decreased to 263,000 hectares from an estimated 328,000 hectares in 2017. Yet it was still the second highest measurement for Afghanistan since the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, began keeping records in 1994.

The potential opium production fell by 29 percent to 6,400 tons from an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017.

The UNODC country representative, Mark Colhoun, told reporters in Kabul the prices of dry opium at harvest time fell to $94 per kilogram. That represents the lowest prices since 2004, he said.

The decreases were mainly a result of the lack of rainfall during the past year, he added. The drought mainly affected northern and western Afghanistan.

Colhoun explained that the amount of land used to grow opium in all of Afghanistan is still the highest ever recorded.

"This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond. It is also a threat to all countries to and through which these drugs are (sold)," he said.

Colhoun warned that more high-quality low-cost heroin will reach buyers around the world. This will lead to increased use of the drug and other problems.

The high levels of opium-poppy cultivation growth and illegal trafficking of opiates will fuel unrest and increase "funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan," he said.

Colhoun said there is no one explanation for the continuing high levels of opium cultivation in Afghanistan. But he said it is related to political unrest, lack of government control and security, as well as corruption.

The UNODC report estimated that the total value of opium production decreased by 56 percent to $604 million from $1.4 billion in 2017. The low prices reduced Afghan farmers’ earnings.

FILE - In this May 10, 2013 file photo, Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.
FILE - In this May 10, 2013 file photo, Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.

The study found that 24 out of the 34 Afghan provinces grew the opium-poppy in 2018, the same number as in 2017.

Afghanistan’s largest province, Helmand, remained the leading producer, followed by neighboring Kandahar and Uruzgan and Nangarhar in the east.

The report noted that opium poppy farming created up to 354,000 full-time jobs in rural areas in 2017.

As of September 30, 2018, the United States had spent nearly $9 billion to fight the growth and sale of opium. That information comes from a U.S. government agency, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Yet the drug trade remains entrenched in Afghanistan “and is growing," said the agency, which measures U.S. civilian and military spending in the country.

I’m Susan Shand.

VOA’s Ayaz Gul reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. The editor was George Grow. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM. _______________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

drought – n.a long time without rain

heroin – n.a powerful illegal drug that is made from opium

province –n.an area of a country

entrench v.to put oneself in a strong defensive position

funding– n.financing

beyondprep.on the farther side of; in a larger amount

challenge– n.a difficult problem or test

cultivationn.the act of growing and harvesting a crop

potential – n.something that can happen

per adv. for each