Nov 14 2013
The United Nations has determined that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has hit a record high. The UN Office of Drug and Crime released a report this week detailing how land used for poppy cultivation jumped 36% from the year before, even as drug eradication efforts fell by 24%. Two provinces which had in earlier years been declared drug-free, were now growing poppies.
Afghanistan had already been declared the world’s greatest producer of heroin, accounting for 75% of all world supplies. This year, that figure may jump to 90%. Not only are Europeans and Russians experiencing huge increases in addiction rates, an estimated 1 million Afghans are themselves addicted.
But growing poppies for heroin and opium is financially lucrative for poor farmers. The crop has a high yield, long shelf life, and needs little water – a crucial fact during one of the worst droughts the country has ever experienced. Farmers are able to feed their families by growing poppies rather than wheat or other food crops.
All sides of the country’s on-going political conflict benefit as well. Taliban groups extract a tax from all product sales to fund their insurgency. And, prominent members of the Afghan government are also reportedly cashing in. Meanwhile, US and NATO forces have seemingly ignored the spike in drug production under their occupation.
GUEST: Julien Mercille, author of Cruel Harvest: US Intervention in the Afghan Drug Trade, and a lecturer in the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy at University College Dublin, Ireland.