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UN survey finds sharp spike in Afghanistan’s opium production

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KABUL: Afghanistan’s opium production has seen a sharp spike, crossing the 6,000-ton mark for the fifth consecutive year, a United Nations report said.

According to the Office on Drugs and Crime report on Monday, Afghanistan is producing up to 320 ton of pure heroin to be trafficked around the world. The country has produced 6,800 tons of opium in 2021, registering a growth of 8 percent in output.

With the Taliban taking over the country, which is the world’s largest opium producer, uncertainties around the trade have grown and this has only pushed up opium prices. Amid rising poverty and food insecurity in the war-torn country, incentives for opium cultivation have also risen, the report said.

 “The 2022 opium harvest will be based on decisions that farmers will make in November 2021, when they are starting to sow opium poppy.” 

Revenues from opiates production surged to around $1.8-$2.7 billion in 2021. “However, much larger sums are accrued along illicit drug supply chains outside Afghanistan. Taxes on opiates cultivation, production and trafficking represent a lucrative potential source of financing for non-state actors in the country.” 

Afghanistan accounted for around 85 percent of the global production of opium in 2020. The country’s economy has been long dependent on opium sales. During its two decades in Afghanistan, the US was not able to stop the illegal production of opium.

“The illicit drug economy has become increasingly complex, with methamphetamine manufacture in Afghanistan sharply increasing in recent years. High regional and global demand for methamphetamine, coupled with a saturated market for opiates, could push the further expansion of manufacture of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs,” the report noted.

The UNODC also said the international community must “urgently” provide help to the people of Afghanistan.

“In view of the volatile security situation, protracted economic crisis, and health emergency, the international community must urgently provide basic needs and services to the people of Afghanistan to promote sustainable reductions in illicit drug cultivation, production and demand as part of overall un assistance,” the report said.

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