Stable opium cultivation predicted in Afghanistan

British Royal Matines patrol through a poppy field

British Royal Marines patrol in a poppy field in Helmand province

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) predicts that the number of hectares used for opium cultivation in Afghanistan will remain stable in 2010, but that the number of tonnes produced may decline. The prediction was made in Afghanistan Opium Survey 2010: Winter Rapid Assessment, released on 10 February 2010. The UN based its assessment on a survey of farmers’ intentions at the time of planting.

Opium cultivation has been reduced significantly in Afghanistan over the past two years. The amount of farmland used for opium fell from a high of 193,000 ha in 2007 to 123,000 ha in 2009. Although further reductions are not expected in 2010, stabilization of opium cultivation would at least mean that the gains of previous years have not been reversed. In addition, the UNODC expects that less favourable weather this year may lead to a drop in overall opium production.

The UN also projects a possible increase in the number of poppy-free provinces in Afganistan. Of the 20 poppy-free provinces in 2009 three northern provinces (Bahglan, Faryab, and Saripul) have reverted back to their previous status due to minor increases in poppy cultivation. But five provinces (Kunar, Nangarhar, Kabul, Laghman, and Badakshan) could attain poppy-free status in 2010.

The correlation between poppy cultivation and the war in Afghanistan remains high. According to the report, almost 80 per cent of villages with very poor security conditions grow the opium poppy, compared to only 7 per cent of villages unaffected by violence.

Photo by Cpl Rupert Frere, UK Ministry of Defence

Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2010 - Winter Rapid Assessment, Antonio Maria Costa, Opium, UNODC