1 February 2011 - A slight decrease in opium poppy cultivation can be expected in Afghanistan in 2011, despite the current high price of opium. A qualitative assessment of farmers' intentions gives grounds for cautious optimism that neither cultivation nor production will spiral out of control as previously feared.
"The findings of the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2011 in the southern region are encouraging" said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC. "A combination of factors seems to have contributed to this development: dry weather, efforts directed against poppy cultivation and towards increasing Government control, as well as licit alternatives to poppy", he added.
Winter is when poppy starts to germinate in the main opium-producing provinces of the south, west and east of Afghanistan, while planting takes place later in the north. The expected decline in opium poppy cultivation and prolonged drought in the south may lead to another year of reduced opium production. Owing to an opium poppy blight in 2010, production of opium halved and prices for the drug soared.
The Winter Rapid Assessment Survey has once again highlighted the direct correlation between poor security, lack of agricultural aid and opium poppy cultivation. Villages considered as lacking security and agricultural assistance were more likely to cultivate opium poppy in 2011 than villages regarded as secure and provided with agricultural assistance. Some 90 per cent of villages where security is poor are involved in opium poppy cultivation. Villages targeted by awareness campaigns to combat such cultivation were significantly less likely to grow opium poppy in 2011.
In the western provinces of Farah, Herat, Ghor and Nimroz, opium poppy cultivation is expected to increase. The eastern and central provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman, Kabul and Kapisa are following the same pattern. Kapisa and Ghor could see a return to such cultivation, which may lead to the loss of their poppy-free status if opium poppy crops are not eradicated in time. The remaining provinces in the central and eastern regions, which were poppy-free in 2010, are expected to retain that status.
The current high price of opium has not resulted in an increase in opium poppy cultivation in Helmand and Kandahar, the provinces with the highest levels of such cultivation. Opium poppy cultivation is in fact expected to decrease in those provinces in 2011. There has been a change in the political environment in Helmand, the Governor of that province having taken initiatives to convince elders and farmers to reduce the amount of opium poppy planted. However, Helmand is expected to retain its status as the province where the most opium poppy is grown.
Farah and Nimroz are expected to see a moderate increase in opium poppy cultivation, while the situation in Badghis province remains unpredictable. Lastly, there could be a sharp increase in opium poppy cultivation in Herat province.
Afghanistan Opium Survey 2011: Winter Rapid Assessment for the Central, Eastern, Southern and Western Regions