Officials from the Khat-e-Naw (New Line) Research Institute said Monday poppy cultivation in northern Balkh province has increased four-fold this year against 2016.
According to findings of the research institute more than 300 tons of opium was harvested by farmers in the province this year.
Head of the Khat-e-Naw Research Institute, Abdul Qadir Misbah, said more than 8,000 acres of land was cultivated for opium by farmers this year and that the anti-drug campaign in the province was a failure.
“Our findings show that farmers in Balkh province have collected more than 336 tons of drugs,” said Misbah.
“These figures only reflect the poppy cultivation in Balkh, but if we calculate all northern provinces, then the figure will increase,” Misbah added.
Northern Balkh province was one of the most secure provinces in the country but recent reports indicate the spike in insecurity is poppy related, which in turn is driven by the Taliban.
“The recent war in the north of the country - in Chamtal and Char Bolak districts - was due to poppy cultivation because Taliban transport the drugs,” said Zabihullah Kakar, a member of Balkh Provincial Council.
Balkh officials meanwhile rejected the New Line Research Center’s findings and said the figures were unsubstantiated.
“We have destroyed more than 300 acres of poppy cultivated lands and it is possible that more fields were cultivated with poppies. No one has yet proved the exact amount of opium products,” Balkh governor’s spokesman Ahmad Munir Farhad said.
The Khat-e-Naw Research Institute however said government’s negligence in building cold storage facilities for farmers, the lack of agricultural markets and the increase in insecurity are the reasons behind the rise in poppy cultivation in Balkh.