Sharp Drop in Afghan Opium Production

30 September 2010 - According to the 2010 Afghan Opium Survey released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), while opium poppy cultivation remained at 2009 levels, opium production halved in 2010.

"This is good news but there is no room for false optimism, the market may again become lucrative for poppy-crop growers so we have to monitor the situation closely," said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC.

According to the summary findings, the bulk of cultivation continued to take place in the restive southern and western provinces of the country.

"These regions are dominated by insurgency and organized crime networks. This underscores the link between opium poppy cultivation and insecurity in Afgfhanistan, a trend we have observed since 2007," said Mr. Fedotov.

Opium cultivation remained stable at 123.000 hectares (ha), down from a peak of 193.000 ha in 2007, with niety eight per cent of cultivation taking place in nine provinces in the south and west of the country.

Hilmand and Kandahar took the lion's share with Hilmand alone accounting for 53 per cent of total opium cultivation in Afghanistan.

Cultivation in Kandahar jumped 30 per cent to 25.835 hectares (63.838 acres), suggesting that opium cultivation increases along with insecurity.

Ïf there is not going to be security in Afghanistan across the entire country, we are not going to be able to eliminate this problem," said Robert Watkins, the deputy U.N. envoy in Afghanistan on the press conference held in Kabul on Thursday.

All 20 poppy-free provinces remained so in 2010 and four other provinces (Kunar, Laghman, Zabul and Hirat) were almost poppy-free.

"This is worrying that the current high sale price of opium in combination with a lower wheat price may encourage farmers to go back to opium cultivation," the survey said.

The gross, per hectare income for opium farmers has incrreased by 36 percent to $4.900 from $3.600 last year, the agency determined. In comparison, the gross income per hectare of wheat dedined from $1.200 in 2009 to $770.

"There's not one single cash crop which can replace opium against those prices," said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the top official for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan. But, he argued, if the government can actually provide security and services, that does reduce the incentive for Afghan farmers to plant opium to survive.

"Security and stability will take the main incentive away."he said.


Afghanistan Opium Survey - Report (PDF, 3.2 MB)

Photos from Opium Survey Launch in Kabul

Message from UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov