THE JOURNAL consists of selected, most notable and newsworthy POSTINGS OF THE DAY.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

10. Afghanistan's Opium



Afghanistan is currently the primary producer of the drug. After regularly producing 70% of the world's opium, Afghanistan decreased production to 74 tons per year under a ban by the Taliban in 2000, although the ban may have been intended primarily to boost prices after the country accumulated a stockpile with over two years' supply. Besides Afghanistan, smaller quantities of opium are produced in Pakistan, the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia (particularly Myanmar), Colombia and Mexico.


Opium production in Afghanistan has soared to record levels.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime report says the amount of opium produced there has doubled in the last two years.

It says Helmand province is now the biggest single drug-producing area in the world, surpassing whole countries such as Colombia.

Afghanistan now accounts for more than 93% of the world's opiates.

Despite billions of dollars of aid and tens of thousands of international troops, the report says 193,000 hectares of opium poppies are being grown in Afghanistan.

"The results are very bad, terrifyingly bad, because cultivation has increased by 17% to an historic level," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the Office on Drugs and Crime.

"No other country beside China in the 19th Century ever had such a large amount of land dedicated to illegal activities.

"The province of Helmand in the south has cultivated more opium than in the rest of Afghanistan. It has become the largest single entity in terms of both production and cultivation," he said.

Despite the overall increase, twice as many provinces are now drug-free in northern and central Afghanistan and the report says growing opium poppies is now closely linked to the insurgency and the instability in the south.

And what is to be done? The report recommends more determined efforts to bring that security.

It urges the government to get tough on corruption, which it says is driving the drugs trade and it lists poor governance, a weak judiciary and failing eradication programmes for these new frightening record levels - by Alastair Leithead, BBC.