Despite high prices of opium, a slight decrease in poppy cultivation in 2011

Photo: UNODC 18 April 2011 - A slight decrease in poppy cultivation can be expected in Afghanistan in 2011, despite the current high price of opium, shows the Opium Winter Rapid Assessment Survey (ORAS) released by UNODC today.

"This is only an indicator and government policy can stimulate further decline", said Mr. Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UNODC Country Office Representative in Afghanistan.

The decrease is expected to be driven by a slightly lower level of cultivation in Hilmand and Kandahar. In turn, a strong increase in cultivation is expected in north and north-eastern regions, namely in Badakshan, Baghlan and Faryab provinces. These provinces had low levels of cultivation in previous years and although in percentage terms the expected increase may be quite large,  in absolute terms the overall cultivation level is expected to remain low as compared with provinces in the South.  In the southern and western regions, a significant increase is also expected in the Hirat, Kapisa and Ghor provinces. Baghlan, Faryab, Kapisa and Ghor were all poppy-free in 2010.

The cultivation in Hilmand and Kandahar is expected to decrease slightly, though cultivation levels will remain high in both provinces. Hilmand has shown decreasing cultivation trends over the last three years. The poppy cultivation in Hilmand declined from 103,590 hectares in 2008 to 65,045 hectares in 2010.

"The political will shown by both, the Minister of Counter Narcotics and the Governor of Hilmand in tackling poppy cultivation, are exemplary for the country", underlined Mr. Lemahieu.

The Winter Assessment indicates that the driving force behind poppy cultivation in 2011 was the 'high sales price of opium', for 73 % of respondents in the north and 77% respondents in the south. The dry and fresh opium price, increased between February 2010 and February 2011, by 306% and 251% respectively.

In the south a direct correlation between insecurity, lack of agricultural aid and poppy cultivation could be established. Some 90 per cent of villages in the south with poor security are involved in poppy cultivation. In the north the vast majority (94%) reported good or very good security at the village level. The expected increase in poppy cultivation even under comparatively good security conditions gives reason for concern.

"Let's not forget that this latest survey is a prediction, a "weather forecast", and that the exact situation of the poppy cultivation will only be known later in the year, once the estimation from satellite images are completed", emphasised Mr. Lemahieu.

Related information:

Opium Rapid Winter Assessment 2011 (full report) pdf