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UN Will Revive Afghan Sugar Industry


In Move That Could Cut Massive Drug Trade, UN Will Revive Afghan Sugar Industry

In a move that could curb the massive growth in opium production in Afghanistan, origin of much of the world’s heroin, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today announced plans to help the war-torn country to resume sugar production.

Through a project financed by Germany, FAO will rehabilitate Afghanistan’s only sugar factory, which ceased operations in the late 1970s, forcing the country to rely entirely on importing 300,000 tons every year.

"The revival of the sugar industry could offer an alternative to poppy production and could help to boost incomes of family farmers by introducing a profitable cash crop," Serge Verniau, FAO Representative in Kabul, the Afghan capital, said.

In what it called “a clear and present danger,” the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) last month released a report showing that with 131,000 hectares dedicated to opium farming this year, Afghanistan had established a double record - the highest drug cultivation in the country's history, and the largest in the world.

It called on the international community to do more in the country's battle against the illicit drug trade or risk it becoming a "narco-State."

Germany has recently signed six new projects with FAO for a total value of $3.3 million covering not only the factory rehabilitation but also projects for animal health and livestock production.

The factory is located 250 kilometres northwest of Kabul, an area which is considered to be the most suitable for sugar beet production. FAO will help to identify farmers to cultivate exclusively sugar beet under contract. Some 2 000 growers will be selected and organized into groups.

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