Vienna, Nov 1 (EFE).- Opium cultivation in Afghanistan in 2022 soared by almost one-third, with one of the biggest harvest in the last three decades despite a ban on opium poppy imposed by the Taliban in April, according to a UN report released Tuesday in Vienna.
The report, “Opium cultivation in Afghanistan,” is the first such analysis by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) since the Taliban came to power in August last year.
Opium poppy plantations increased by 32 percent over the previous year, reaching 233,000 hectares, making the 2022 harvest the third largest in the last three decades, after 2017 and 2018.
This year’s harvest may turn into up to 380 tons of high-purity heroin, the deadliest drug around the globe, of which Afghanistan supplies 80 percent of the demand.
The increase in poppy cultivation comes amid a humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan, while the value of opium poppy has soared due to the Taliban ban.
Crop estimates were made by UN analysts from satellite images.
This year’s harvest does not appear to have been affected by the ban, which was issued in April, given that the crop had already been cultivated by then.
However, it remains to be seen whether the Taliban enforce the ban amid the acute economic crisis plaguing the country. Planting for next year’s crop is due to start this month.
“Afghan farmers are trapped in the illicit opiate economy, while seizure events around Afghanistan suggest that opiate trafficking continues unabated,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly.
Seizure events collected in UNODC’s Drugs Monitoring Platform suggest that opiates trafficking activity has continued unabated since August 2021, indicating that the global Afghan opiate market has not been disrupted since the Taliban takeover, said the report.
“The international community must work to address the acute needs of the Afghan people, and to step up responses to stop the criminal groups trafficking heroin and harming people in countries around the world,” stressed Waly.
Cultivation continued to be concentrated in the southwestern parts of the country, which accounted for 73 percent of the harvest. In Hilmand Province, one fifth of the arable land is dedicated to opium poppy.
Opium prices have skyrocketed following the announcement of the ban in April. Farmers’ income from opium sales has more than tripled, from 425 million in 2021 to 1.4 billion in 2022.
However, the increase in income has not necessarily resulted in a greater purchasing power due to spiraling inflation during the same period, with an average 35 percent increase in food prices.
In the backdrop of a serious economic and humanitarian crisis, the illegal opium economy has gained in volume compared to legal activities.
According to the report, after August 2021, the legal economy contracted by nearly 5 billion dollars, or 21 percent, with per capita income falling by as much as 30 percent.
On the other hand, opium-related activities have increased as the income of farmers from opium amounted to about 30 percent of the total agricultural production, compared with about 9 percent in 2021. EFE