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World’s No. 1 opium-producing Country: Afghanistan’s illicit Poppy Harvest on the Rise Again in 2017

A new United Nations survey said Friday the total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has increased by 10 percent, from 183,000 to 201,000 hectares, compared to the previous year, leading to a significant rise in the production of illicit opium.

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An Afghan man walks through a poppy field in Surkhroad district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, 14, 2017. Source-VOA
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The world’s No. 1 opium-producing country, Afghanistan, is braced for an exploding poppy harvest this year, as farmers are cultivating the illicit crop in areas where it has never grown before.

“Unfortunately, the narcotics production is on the rise this year,” Javed Qaem, Afghan deputy counternarcotics minister, told international donors in Kabul Tuesday. “We are concerned that narcotics would increase this year, including in areas and provinces where previously we had zero opium production.”

A new United Nations survey said Friday the total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has increased by 10 percent, from 183,000 to 201,000 hectares, compared to the previous year, leading to a significant rise in the production of illicit opium. The illicit drug is fueling insecurity, violence and insurgency among other problems to discourage private and public investment in Afghanistan, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in its survey report.

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Qaem’s comments come amid growing international concern that the Taliban, who are fighting Afghan government troops in rural areas of the country, are fueling the poppy trade by engaging in trafficking and skimming hundreds of millions dollars in profit to fuel their militancy.

Taliban insurgents, according to U.S. officials, net 60 percent of their war chest from narcotics.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March, 16, 2017, after being sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March, 16, 2017, after being sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.

Top producer of opium

Afghanistan is thought to produce an estimated 90 percent of the world’s heroin. As poppy cultivation spikes, U.S. intelligence officials warn that the war-torn country is likely to see more armed violence this year.

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“The intelligence community assesses that the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in [the] military assistance by the United States and its partners,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a Senate hearing last week.

Since 2002, the U.S. has spent more than $8.5 billion on counternarcotics in Afghanistan — about $1.5 million a day, according to the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

In addition to war, opium fuels corruption and organized crime in Afghanistan, a country already ranked among the five most corrupt states in the world by Transparency International.

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Only 13 of the country’s 34 provinces were reported poppy-free in 2016, and this number has dropped into single digits this year, Afghan officials say.

Areas of cultivation increase

Afghan authorities said poppies, which traditionally have been grown in southern provinces, have found fertile lands in several northern and northeastern provinces, including Balkh and Jawzjan.

A large-scale increase also is expected in provinces with previously little opium crops, such as northwestern Badghis and Ghor.

“Opium is cultivated in almost half of the province, including areas under the government influence,” a resident in northeastern Baghlan province told VOA on condition of anonymity for safety concerns. “Poppy crops are seen everywhere in the northeastern region. Badakhshan — which borders Tajikistan and China — is the epicenter of narcotics in the north.”

Afghan farmers work on a poppy field in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 8, 2016.

Afghan farmers work on a poppy field in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 8, 2016.

Helmand province a top producer

Around 50 percent of the poppy crop in Afghanistan is produced in southern Helmand province, which borders Pakistan.

The Afghan government says the increase in drug production and trafficking is taking place mostly in conflict-hit areas.

“Opium cultivation, production and trafficking take place in remote areas that are under the control of militants, terrorists and the Taliban,” said Afghan General Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, the deputy interior minister for counternarcotics.

The Afghan government says it, along with aid agencies, has been trying to help Afghans find a sustainable alternative crop source. But those efforts appear to be failing.

Afghan counternarcotics police said they last year seized almost 650 tons of contraband drugs. The confiscated drugs included raw opium, heroin and hashish. Around 2,683 smugglers and traffickers, including 67 women, were arrested last year, Ahmadi said.

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Experts say worsening security and immediate economic benefits for farmers are major reasons for the rise in poppy cultivation.

“A satanic triangle of smugglers, terrorists and corrupt government officials is involved in drug production and trafficking,” Haroon Rashid Sherzad, former Afghan acting minister of counternarcotics, told VOA. “Security is an important reason, but several other factors fuel the drug production and trade in Afghanistan. Corruption at the local government levels encourages poppy cultivation.”

Afghan response is lacking

Experts also believe that the increase is partly due to weak counternarcotics efforts by the government.

“The government lacks political will to fight opium production,” Abdul Aziz, a Kabul-based counternarcotics expert, told VOA. “For the last 16 years, the government has done little to rid the country of narcotics and provide alternatives to farmers.”

According to Sherzad, counternarcotics efforts require a comprehensive approach and coordination among government departments, which, he said, is lacking. He added that “narco-entrepreneurs” control large portions of government lands in several provinces where they cultivate poppies. (VOA)

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  • Eyebin Eme

    You read smell this? Smells like bullshit.US troops for hire guarding the Afghan poppy fields. Big pharma needs it’s opium to feed drug addict Americans

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As Climate Talks Come to a Halt, Africa Suffers From Global Warming

The World Health Organization warns that climate change will exacerbate the impact of some disease and health problems.

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Drought, Climate change, global warming
A farmer stands on cracked earth that three weeks earlier created the bottom of a reservoir on his farm, in Groot Marico, South Africa. VOA

Efforts to boost global action against climate change are stuttering, as several key nations have objected to a key United Nations-backed report on the impacts of rising temperatures at the COP24 talks in Poland.

Many developing nations say they are already suffering from the impact of climate change, especially in south Asia and Africa, where water shortages and intense storms are putting lives and livelihoods in danger.

In Malawi in southern Africa, a bustling fish market stood at Kachulu on the shores of Lake Chilwa just five months ago. Now, hundreds of fishing boats lie marooned across the vast bay as vultures circle over the cracked, sun-baked mud. Water levels here fluctuate annually, but scientists say climate change is making the seasonal dry-out of the lake far more dramatic. Fishermen are being forced to leave and look for work elsewhere, says Sosten Chiotha, of the non-governmental organization ‘LEAD’ – Leadership for Environment and Development.

“Climate change contributes to the current recessions that we are experiencing, because you can see that in 2012 there was a recession where the lake lost about 80 percent of its water. Then it recovered in 2013, but not fully. So since then every year we have been experiencing these recessions,” Chiotha said.

Scientists gathering at the COP24 climate talks say it is developing countries like Malawi that are being hit hardest by the impacts of climate change.

The charity Water Aid has released a report ranking the countries worst-hit by water shortages, with Sudan, Niger and Pakistan making up the top three.

“There are people who are living with the impact of climate change right now. And they’re feeling those impacts not through carbon, but through water. And as we’ve seen over the past few years and will continue to see for many years to come unfortunately, is a huge increase in water stress and absolute water scarcity,” Water Aid’s Jonathan Farr told VOA from the climate talks currently underway in the Polish city of Katowice.

Richer nations have pledged $100 billion a year for poorer nations to deal with the consequences of climate change. Water Aid says they are failing to deliver the money.

Scientists say emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 to have any hope of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius – the target agreed in the Paris climate deal.

 

 

Global Warming, Climate Change, Africa
Climate activists attend the March for Climate in a protest against global warming in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 8, 2018, as the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in the city. VOA

However, the number of coal-fired power stations – the most polluting for

m of energy generation – is growing. The German organization ‘Urgewald’ calculates that $478 billion had been invested into expansion of the coal industry between January 2016 and September 2018.

Also Read: To Help Poor Countries Adapt To Global Warming, World Bank Doubles Its Funding

Meanwhile the World Health Organization warns that climate change will exacerbate the impact of some disease and health problems, including malaria, malnutrition and heat exposure.

Also Read: To Help Poor Countries Adapt To Global Warming, World Bank Doubles Its Funding

There is little optimism at the talks that much concrete progress will be made, as several countries including the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia have already voiced objections to a key scientific report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (VOA)