Monday, November 23, 2015

One Year Is Not A Trend - Afghan Opium Production Decrease

The total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan was estimated to be 183,000 hectares (163,000-202,000) in 2015, which represents a 19% decrease from 2014. Area under opium poppy cultivation has decreased for the first time since 2009 and is at its fourth highest level since the beginning of estimations in 1994; higher levels have been estimated in 2007, 2013 and 2014 (HERE). The decline is largely due, it seems, to natural causes (HERE) – crop failure in the traditional opium-growing heartland of the south – and market fluctuation, rather than anything the government or outside agencies have done. Moreover, the trend was bucked in areas of the north and west, where farmers, especially those living in insecure areas, have been putting more land under poppy cultivation.  
That lower yield was seen even in Kandahar where traders had distributed genetically-modified poppy seeds to farmers just before the planting season (in parts of Kandahar and Helmand poppy is planted twice a year). These seeds were supposed to boost the yield and shorten the growth cycle of the plants. The seeds originate in China where legal opium poppy cultivation is undertaken for pharmaceutical use, as is the case in over a dozen countries. “The genetically modified seeds shorten the growth cycle of the plant – to one to two months, instead of five to six months.” (HERE). However, 90 per cent of world illicit opiates are still produced in Afghanistan (opium and its derivatives morphine and heroin). Half of the Afghan opium is converted into heroin or morphine within Afghanistan. In 2014 the GDP of Afghanistan was US$ 21.2 billion, while the gross value of the Afghan opiate economy was estimated to be US$ 2.84 billion (US$ 3.1 billion in 2013). This value represents all income generated by the opium production that is believed to have remained in Afghanistan (HERE).