Sign Up

Is Afghanistan Drugging Up the World — Again?

Did the end of the Taliban rule have a significant impact on opium production in Afghanistan?

February 5, 2004

Did the end of the Taliban rule have a significant impact on opium production in Afghanistan?

The good news about Afghanistan is that the country — against the odds — managed successfully to give itself a new constitution. The bad news is that it’s old scourge is literally popping up all over the country again. Our Globalist Factsheet traces the unfortunate reemergence of Afghanistan’s opium cultivation.

Does poppy production continue to matter in Afghanistan?

As of October 2003, opium cultivation represents about 23% of Afghanistan's $4.4 billion GDP.
(U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime)

Is that all?

If the income earned by traffickers of the drug from farm bazaars to border transit points is included in the calculation, opium accounts for almost 50% of Afghanistan's GDP.
(U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime)

Why is that particularly striking?

This is roughly equal to all the money available for reconstruction of Afghanistan.
(Afghani Ministry for Rural Reconstruction and Development)

How large of an increase is this from last year?

In 2002, opium production in Afghanistan generated up to $1.2 billion.
(The Economist)

What characterizes Afghanistan's opium production?

As of 2004, Afghanistan is focused on the wholesale opium business — with the heroin refining and distribution concentrated in neighboring countries.
(Boston Globe)

Has there been a significant spread in poppy cultivation?

As of October 2003, poppy cultivation has spread to 28 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces, compared to just 14 in 2001 — when the country was under Taliban rule.
(U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime)

How has this changed from 2003?

As of 2003, 80,000 hectares, or roughly 200,000 acres, of farmland in Afghanistan is used to grow poppies — up 8% from 2002.
(U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime)

What has tempted farmers to cultivate more poppies again?

As of October 2003, Afghanistan's per capita income is just $184. In contrast, the average annual income of an opium-growing family is $3,900.
(U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime)

Besides money, why else do farmers choose to grow poppies?

As of 2002, due to a drought in Afghanistan — now in its fourth year — the cultivation of crops needing more than minimal water, such as wheat, is nearly impossible. Poppies, in contrast, require little water to grow.
(The Economist)

Where do all the drugs go?

As of 2004, 85% of Afghanistan’s heroin stays in the region — with only 15% reaching the west. Afghanistan itself has an estimated one million addicts.
(Boston Globe)

Could the world do more to lesson the incentives for poppy cultivation?

During the two years after military conflict, per capita external assistance reached $1,390 in Bosnia, $814 in Kosovo and is currently $735 in Iraq. In Afghanistan, though, external assistance amounts to only $52 per capita.
(Rand Corporation)

What is the United States doing to decrease these incentives?

Of the $1.2 billion set aside for Afghanistan in the $87 billion spending bill signed by President Bush in November 2003, only $800 million is for reconstruction. That amount is well below the $1.2 billion pumped into the Afghan economy by the opium trade in 2002 alone.
(U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee)

What is the government of Afghanistan doing to try and stop the spread of poppy cultivation?

In January 2002, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai issued a decree banning cultivation, trafficking and use of opiates in Afghanistan.
(U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime)

Why is it important to get a handle on poppy production in Afghanistan?

As of 2003, more than 90% of the heroin found in Russia, Europe and Central Asia comes from Afghanistan.
(International Herald Tribune)