The Straits Times (Singapore)
SEP 14 1997
Good year for Afghan's opium producers
By R. Senthilnathan in Vienna
GOOD weather and improved methods of cultivation had resulted
in a sharp increase in opium production in Afghanistan this year,
United Nations officials said on Friday.
The officials at the Vienna-based UN Drug Control Programme
(UNDCP) said that opium-poppy production during the 1996-97
season in Afghanistan, heart of the so-called Golden Crescent,
had risen to an estimated 2,800 tonnes. This was almost 25 per
cent more than what was produced in the previous season.
The figures were released after an extensive survey done by the
organisation in the country. This year's survey covered 18
provinces, eight more than last year.
The opium poppy is the source material for morphine which is
then processed into heroin.
The full findings of the survey have not been released, but Mr
Bernard Frahi, UNDCP's chief for the central and south-west
Asian section, said that the increased harvest should be seen in
the light of the stagnation in opium production during the
1995-96 period, when the total yield was around 2,300 tonnes,
almost the same as what was cultivated in the previous season.
At that time, he said, bad weather had played a major role in
bringing the yield down.
This year, however, the weather had been favourable, enabling a
higher yield, Mr Frahi said.
Besides, there were also signs that some farmers may have
diverted aid -- including agricultural equipment and fertiliser --
given as part of international programmes to rehabilitate the
country to boost their opium production, he added.
Interestingly, 96 per cent of the country's total opium production
comes from areas currently under the control of the Taleban,
known for their rigid interpretation of the Quran. The Taleban
have prohibited the production of cannabis.
Cannabis is used in Afghanistan and the Taleban do not want
that, said one UN official.
In the case of opium, the end product, heroin, went out of the
country and this could explain the lax attitude of the authorities,
the official suggested.
Drug control officials believe 80 per cent of the heroin seized in
Europe originates from Afghanistan.
In its annual drug report for this year, the UNDCP said there
were an estimated eight million people worldwide who were
addicted to heroin and other opiates. The most widely abused
drug was cannabis, used by an estimated 141 million people.
The estimated 2,800 tonnes would also mean Afghanistan's opium
production is roughly 25 per cent more than that of the combined
total of the second major heroin production area, the Golden
Triangle encompassing Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. Both these
regions account for 90 per cent of the world's opiates.
UN drug officials said that in recent years, opium cultivation had
also begun in parts of South America, particularly in Colombia,
where an estimated 6,500 ha was under cultivation.
Copyright (C) 1997 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.