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Home >>  Culture & Conflict Studies  >>  2007 Opium Trends in Eastern Afghanistan

2008 Opium Trends in Afghanistan

Recent trends in Afghanistan's poppy cultivation include an overall decrease in output nationally, but an increase in the production and cultivation capabilities of Helmand Province, the true epicenter of Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation and opium production. According to UN statistics, Helmand province alone cultivated 66 percent of the country’s opium poppy in 2008. Almost 98% of Afghanistan’s opium derives from southern and southwestern Afghanistan, up from 88% in 2007. Farmers continue to cultivate the crop where security remains elusive, corruption is rampant, and high yields are likely. Farmers in the north have abandoned the crop due to increased pressure, better governance, and enhanced security which allows for the implementation of alternative livelihood programs. "The number of opium poppy-free provinces increased to 18 in 2008 compared to 13 in 2007 and six in 2006,” according the UNODC’s 2008 Afghanistan Opium Survey.

Poppy-free Provinces 2008

Central Region

Ghazni*,Khost*, Logar*, Nuristan*, Paktika*, Paktya*, Panjshir*, Parwan*, Wardak*

North Region

Balkh*, Bamyan*, Jawzjan, Samangan*, Sari Pul

Northeast Region

Kunduz*, Takhar

East Region

Nangarhar

West Region

Ghor

* Poppy-free provinces in 2007 and 20081

Main opium poppy cultivating provinces in Afghanistan (ha), 2008

Province

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Change 2007-2008

% Total in 2008

Helmand

15,371

29,353

26,500

69,324

102,770

103,590

1%

66%

Kandahar

3,055

4,959

12,989

12,619

16,615

14,623

-14%

9%

Farah

1,700

2,288

10,240

7,694

14,865

15,010

1%

10%

Uruzgan

4,698

N/A

2,024

9,773

9,204

9,939

7%

6%

Nimroz

26

115

1,690

1,955

6,507

6,203

-5%

4%


Global market and cultivationexpectations in 2009:
The decrease in overall opium production has been attributed to the falling price of opium (about 20%), a trend that is likely to continue for the next three years due to the substantial overproduction witnessed in 2007 and 2008. The UN suggests there is no province that will likely see an increase in poppy cultivation in 2009. Additionally, the 18 poppy-free provinces from 2008 are expected to remain so this year. Baghlan and Herat will likely be the next two provinces to be listed as poppy-free as cultivation is expected to plummet and eradication measures expanded. The UN also predicts a decrease in opium cultivation in seven provinces: Badakhshan, Badghis, Faryab, Kabul, Kapisa, Kunar and Laghman..2

Figure 1- Overall Poppy Cultivation Expectations for 2009 (PDF)

Heroin/Morphine Processing:
Domestic production of morphine and heroin has increased substantially since 2004. Illicit precursor chemicals needed to facilitate the chemical conversion of opium into morphine base and heroin, some 1,500 tones of acetic anhydride (heroin processing) and 9,000 tones of other chemicals, are trafficked through Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan each year. Interdiction measures have succeeded in confiscating some shipments but have not made any significant impact on the industry (see chart below).3 Additionally, resistance to government eradication efforts have plagued counternarcotics personnel since 2005, a trend that is steadily increasing as insurgents actively participate in the "protection" of poppy fields, refinement laboratories, trafficking routes and markets. For more, see Figure 3- Heroin Production in Afghanistan: Helmand, Nangarhar and Badakhshan (PDF)

Drugs Seized (kg)
(Through 2008)

 

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opium

2,171

17,689

50,048

40,052

39,304

37,530

Heroin

977

14,006

5,592

1,927

4,249

4,936

Morphine Base

111

210

118

105

617

3,232

Hashish

10,269

74,002

40,052

17,675

71,078

629,952

Precursor Chemicals Seized
(Through 2008)

 

 

 

2003

2004

2005

2006

207

2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solid (kg)

14,003

3,787

24,719

30,856

37,509

65,969

Liquid (liters)

0

4,725

40,067

12,681

33,008

2,577

Arrests (for trafficking)
(Through 2008)

  

 

  

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

Arrests

203

248

275

548

760

703

Drug Labs Destroyed
(Through 2008)

  

 

  

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

   

  

  

 

 

 

 

Labs Destroyed

31

78

26

248

50

94

Monitoring the Trafficking of Heroin to Europe (PDF)

2009: NATO's Counternarcotics Approach
In late 2008, NATO officials announced plans to target drug traffickers and laboratories associated with insurgents for the first time. The plan drew criticism from some European NATO countries citing legal concerns over killing unarmed traffickers. Critics claim International law prohibits nations from using military force against criminals, including drug traffickers.4 Nevertheless, senior NATO officials, US military leaders, and Canadian officials have announced the upcoming initiative to target traffickers has been settled. "NATO will not act outside international law. This nexus between the insurgency and the narcotics business leads to the killing of our soldiers in Afghanistan," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters in February.5 "We have full agreement … that we can go indeed after laboratories where the poppies are brought in and turned into heroin … or after the guys and the people who bring in the precursors," he said.

Note: Selecting from this drop down menu will open PDF documents.

 

 


Reference:
1. Afghanistan Opium Survey 2008, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, November 2008, http://www.unodc.org/documents/publications/Afghanistan_Opium_Survey_2008.pdf  (accessed March 5, 2009).
2. Afghanistan Opium Winter Assessment, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, January 2009, page 1.
3.
2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Country Reports - Afghanistan through Comoros, February 27, 2009
4.Judy Dempsey, “NATO Chief Presses Afghan Drug Fight,” New York Times, February 11, 2009.
5.“Canadian soldiers to target Afghan drug trade linked to Taliban,” CBC News, February 6, 2009.


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