A new United Nations survey finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan has decreased by 20 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, citing a severe drought and falling prices of dry opium at the national level.
The total opium-poppy cultivation area decreased to 263,000 hectares, from 328,000 hectares estimated in 2017, but it was
still the second highest measurement for Afghanistan since the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring in 1994.
The potential opium production decreased by 29 percent to 6,400 tons from an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017.
The UNODC country representative, Mark Colhoun, while explaining factors behind the reduction told reporters in Kabul the farm-gate prices of dry opium at the harvest time fell to $94 per kilogram, the lowest since 2004.
The decreases, in particular in the northern and western Afghan regions, were mainly attributed to the severe drought that hit the country during the course of the last year, he added.
“Despite these decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is still the highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond. It is also a threat to all countries to and through which these drugs are trafficked as well as to Afghanistan itself,” said Colhoun.
He warned that more high-quality low-cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world, with increased consumption and related harms as a further likely consequence.
“The significant levels of opium-poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates will further fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” he said.