By Sikander Shaheen
Opium trade is a major component of Afghan economy that contributes to funding insurgency and escalating corruption in the country, while Afghan opium trade may have exceeded $ 2.4 billion, equivalent to 15 per cent of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the UN and an Afghan body said on Monday.
A joint statement by the United States Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Ministry of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan, issued from Vienna, Kabul and Islamabad, revealed that farm-gate income of opium probably amounted to over $ 1.4 billion, equivalent to nine per cent of Afghanistan’s GDP last year. Jointly conducted by the two aforementioned bodies, Afghan Opium Survey 2011 revealed the noticeable 133 per cent surge in the net value of opium in comparison with last year.
According to the survey, around 90 per cent of the world’s opium comes from Afghanistan. The poppy-crop cultivation spread over 131,000 hectares in 2011, seven per cent higher than in 2010. The amount of opium produced increased by 61 per cent, from 3,600 tonnes in 2010 to 5,800 tonnes in 2011.
The UNODC’s World Drug Report 2011 shows that global opium production in 2009 and 2010 was recorded at 185,900 hectares (ha) and 195,700 hectares respectively while Afghanistan witnessed opium’s indigenous production of roughly 123,000 ha. On a rough estimate, Afghanistan’s contribution in the global illegal opium production and trade amounts to around 90 per cent.
In addition, owing to the large-scale destruction of opium cultivations in Afghanistan during last two years, opium prices have increased manifolds. Pointing to this scenario, Afghan Opium Survey says, the gross per-hectare income from opium cultivation was recorded up to $ 10,700 that also reached levels not observed since 2003.
Talking to TheNation, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry Spokesman Siddique Siddiqui admitted that drugs pervasive black market was one of the major challenges to Afghan government. “Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and Allied forces work in close coordination to eliminate opium, poppy and cocaine farms in Afghanistan. But this is an area much needs to be done.”
To a query, Siddiqui claimed that opium trade in Afghanistan massively declined due to destruction of opium crops owing to diseases. When told that UNODC and Afghanistan’s Narcotics Control Ministry’s joint survey depicted a different scenario, the Afghan interior ministry spokesman said, “I haven’t been through the survey. I can only comment once I read it.”
A UN statement quotes Executive Director UNODC Yury Fedotov as saying, “Opium is therefore a significant part of the Afghan economy and provides considerable funding to the insurgency and fuels corruption.”
Pakistan and Russia have long accused Afghanistan for having failed to curb ever-rising yet unlawful opium, cocaine and poppy cultivation with the alleged patronage of government functionaries.
While Pakistan alleges that illegal drug money funds the militants to stage attacks in Pakistan’s borderlands at Pak-Afghan border, Russia has repeatedly slammed the allied forces for their alleged failure to destroy opium and other drug crops. Wali Karzai, the slain half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, faced serious allegations of running a drugs nexus in Southern Afghanistan and patronising drug trafficking.
The UNODC says, drug trafficking in Asia is dominated by opium and heroin, which are smuggled to final destinations within the region as well as to Europe from Afghanistan and China (from Myanmar), though some Afghan opiates also find their way to China (up to 30 per cent of Chinese demand). Overall, according to World Drug report 2011, Asian opium exports accounted for more than 99 per cent of the world total. Similarly, morphine seizures made in Asia accounted for more than 99 per cent he world total. More than half of all heroin seizures (56 per cent in 2009) were made by Asian countries. In line
with the much larger opium production of Afghanistan compared to Myanmar, opiate seizures have been far larger for the countries surrounding Afghanistan notably
Pakistan than for the countries surrounding Myanmar.