Opium Poppy Growing Has Increased in Afghanistan

    April 22, 2013

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Agricultural Report.

    Afghan farmers have another big harvest this year, but officials at the United Nations and around the world are not celebrating.

    The crop is opium, farmers have been busy harvest their opium poppies. Farmer Faiz Mohammed in Helmand province makes no apologies.

    Opium Poppy Growing Has Increased in Afghanistan
    2013 expected opium cultivation levels in Afghanistan, by province.

    "We are the poorest people in this area. If we don't cultivate poppies we can't feed ourselves and our family. We have tried to cultivate corn and wheat, but that is too cheap, doesn't bring a good income. And poppy crops bring good money."

    The riches promised by opuim stands in contrast, to the rest of the country's struggling economy. Farmer Harie Abudola says  profits are driving the opium production, not pressure from the Taliban.

    "The Taliban have no influence here. The farmers themselves grow poppies because, compared to the price of wheat, there is a huge difference. For instance, we sell four kilograms of corn for 100 Afghanis [$1.89 USD] but poppies bring 2000-5000 Afghanis [$37.80-$94.57 USD]. This is for the benefit of the farmers, we see there is a huge difference in the price."

    A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime warns that Afghanistan could supply as much as 90% of the world's heroin, UN official Jean-Luc Lemahieu calls it a sign of failure.
    "We have seen enormous inflow in this country over the last decades. And with regards to the drug control situation, we still see increases of the opium cultivation,
    so we cannot say in any way, based on the facts, that we have succeeded. We have failed."

    And he warns that farmers are not the only ones becoming dependent on opium.

    "It is one of the biggest diseases this country is facing at this moment - one million addicts. It is an enormous health problem. Who will pay for that?"

    That question is far from that thoughts of opium farmers, who say they have no other way to feed their families.

    The report released last week says opium production is especially high in the most unstable areas of Afghanistan. These are areas where the surge increase in American troops, helped beat back Taliban influence.

    The report says insurgents use the insecurity in those areas, especially Helmand and Kandahar provinces. To win popular support, the insurgents also assisted opium farmers with their crops.

    The UN says poor weather and crop disease lead to a reduction in the supply of opium last year. That reduction meant higher price. The report notes that the higher price of opium, makes it an even more attractive crop to grow now.

    The UN says this is the third year in a row that opium poppy growing has increased in Afghanistan. This follows gains made by the government, in years of efforts to reduce the nation's share of the drug trade.

    And that's the Agricultural Report from VOA Learning English. You can read, listen and learn English with more stories about agriculture at the voalearningenglish website. I am Karen Leggett.