11th December 2017
Poppy cultivation is spreading from south to north in Afghanistan
New motorbikes are circulating in the cities of Balkh as a sign of wealth in this state located in northern Afghanistan. This state has so far been left out of poppy cultivation, but this activity has increased by almost 500% this year.
It should be noted that since the overthrow of the Taliban, which prevented poppy cultivation before being the main source of their funding, Afghanistan has become the largest opium producer in the world.
With 9 thousand tonnes in 2017, production almost doubled in a single year. This crop is a major source of income in rural areas, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which lead to crop expansion and improved earnings.
A Western adviser acknowledges that "northern states, such as Balkh, are evidence of a great failure. Before two years, there was no poppy presence, which indicates a downgrade of official drug policies.
Only ten out of 34 Afghan states are free of poppy cultivation, while production shows a considerable increase in areas not significantly affected by these crops, including the north of the country and the two governorates of Jowzjan (+ 691 %) and Balkh (+ 481%), with the largest increase recorded in 2017.
A local observer, who asked not to be named, said that Balkh state and its capital Mazar-e-Sharif last spring experienced a major change in poppy cultivation, while adding "We could see the poppy from the governor's office. Everyone is engaged in this area from the smallest field to the largest garden."
Buses and trucks filled with farmers
Afghan sources and other westerners told AFP that the big increase in harvests required farmers in the south of the country to flock to "full buses and trucks" in Kandahar and Helmand. Southern states produce nearly half of Afghan opium.
The head of the Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Dhabihullah Zubin, confirms the abundance of crops that has led to a drop in prices, "from seven thousand Afghans (local currency) to three thousand" (from $ 106 to $ 45) at spring.
Despite this, a farmer of twenty-seven years, met by AFP, confirmed with a smile that he was able to take a second wife thanks to the abundance of his crops.
He said, "Everyone grows the poppy, we will never reap that money by growing melon or wheat," adding "The poppy grows much faster than wheat and requires less water. "
Experts note that the drought that has hit Afghanistan since 2014 has been instrumental in spreading poppy cultivation.
Brookings Institute researcher Vanda Felipe-Brown discusses the lack of economic alternatives in the countryside. "The opium economy is vital for many Afghans, there is no other sector that offers more job opportunities," she says.
Corruption and political messages
Helmand occupies half of the new areas that emerged during this year (+/- 63% in total), according to a European expert who believes that "increased levels of insecurity" contributes to the increase in culture poppy.
This situation reflects the resounding failure of US policy, which has spent more than $ 8 billion since 2002 to fight opium, a heroin raw material that is invading global markets.
According to the United Nations, Afghan opium covers "double the world demand which leads to expectations of price collapse".