Afghanistan Opium Survey 2005

The UNODC Afghanistan Opium Survey 2005 reports that opium cultivation in the country decreased by 21 per cent from a record high of 131,000 to 104,000 hectares, meaning that one out of five opium fields cultivated in 2004 was not replanted in 2005.

This decline in cultivation is attributed to several factors: the farmers' choice to refrain from poppy cultivation, the government's eradication programme, the ban on opium, and law enforcement activities.

As UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa explains, "The fear that authorities would eradicate the opium crops made it riskier for farmers to cultivate poppies. At the same time, income support in the countryside gave farmers an opportunity to engage in other, legal activities."

Despite the overall decline in cultivation, Afghanistan remains the world's largest supplier of opium (87 per cent). According to the Survey, production as compared to last year's figures dropped by only 2.4 per cent. Favourable weather conditions resulted in a 22 per cent higher yield. Cultivation also increased in some provinces, where the negative results are blamed on corruption and economic factors.

In 2005, the drug economy was equivalent to 52 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. "Illicit though it is, in many parts of Afghanistan opium is the only commercially viable crop", says Mr. Costa. "Assistance to farmers is needed until the legal economy takes over as the mainstay of growth in Afghanistan."

Clearly, the international community needs to fight drugs and poverty simultaneously if it is to consolidate the positive trend in the opium situation. UNODC further recommends that the Afghan government remove corrupt officials, implement a zero-tolerance policy towards militias and their warlords, ensure parliamentarians are committed to drug control, extradite major drug traffickers, and tie development assistance to farmers' pledge to refrain from harvesting opium.

The promising results registered nationwide and particularly in the provinces of Nangarhar, Badakhshan and Hilmand, recipients of substantial development assistance, illustrate that the opium economy in the country can be contained.

The full report can be downloaded from