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Afghan opium production falls this year

Afghan opium production falls by 21 per cent in 2005 – UNODC

Government success at persuading farmers to voluntarily refrain from poppy cultivation, farmers’ apprehension that the official ban on opium cultivation could be enforced by eradication, and relatively low farm-gate prices have led to a 21 per cent decline in Afghan opium cultivation, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said today.

But Afghanistan is still the largest supplier of opium to the world, accounting for 87 per cent of the world supplies. In terms of opium cultivation, the country’s share in the global total dropped from 67 per cent in 2004 to 63 per cent in 2005.

Opium cultivation fell to 103,000 hectares in 2005 from 131,000 a year earlier, Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC Executive Director, told a press conference in Kabul.

Mr. Costa reported that production of Afghan opium in 2005 stands at 4,100 tons, only slightly less than the 4,200 tons produced in 2004. Favourable weather conditions in 2005 led to an agricultural productivity rise to 39 kilograms per hectare from 32 kilogram per hectare in 2004.

About 4,007 hectares, or some 4 per cent of the 2005 opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, were eradicated by provincial governors in the spring of 2005. The national Government, under two separate eradication campaigns, destroyed opium crops in another 1,000 hectares. In total, over 5,000 hectares were eradicated in Afghanistan in 2005, accounting for roughly 5 per cent of this year’s opium cultivation.

“The threat of eradication reinforced President (Hamid) Karzai’s persuasion efforts, and we all learned that crop destruction must be supported by assistance to farmers so as to develop licit economic activities in the countryside,” Mr. Costa said.

However, he also noted that the decline in cultivation was uneven across the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, an indication that provincial governors were not all equally committed to the cause of drug control, in some cases actually being part of the problem.

UNODC recommendations for continued progress include removal of corrupt government and provincial authorities, zero-tolerance policy towards warlords’ involvement in drug refining and trafficking, extradition of major drug traffickers and conditioning development assistance for farming communities on refraining from drug cultivation.

Meanwhile, on the refugee front, the number of UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) facilitated returns in 2005 currently stands at around 290,000 people and, of these, 250,000 have come from Pakistan and 38,000 from Iran, bringing the total since the repatriation operation began in March 2002 to nearly four million Afghans.

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