The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated in its annual 2018 Afghanistan Opium Survey that there has been a sharp drop in poppy cultivation in the country.
Based on the UNODC report, opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has dropped by 29 percent during the current year.
The report states that the total opium poppy cultivation area in Afghanistan was estimated at 263,000 (242,000 – 283,000) hectares in 2018, a 20 percent, or 65,000 hectare, decrease compared to the previous year.
It is the second highest measurement since the beginning of systematic opium poppy monitoring and recording program in 1994. However, the 2018 level still exceeds the third highest level in 2014 by 17 percent or 39,000 hectares.
According to the report, poppy cultivation decreased by some 24,000 hectares (56 percent) in the northern region; by 23,200 hectares (43 percent) in the western region and by 15,000 hectares (-8 percent) in the southern region. The strong decrease in the northern and parts of the western regions were mainly attributed to the adverse effects of a drought.
“Potential opium production was estimated at 6,400 (5,600 – 7,200) tons in 2018, a decrease of 29 percent from its 2017 level (9,000 tons). The decrease in production was due to decreases in areas being cultivated and the opium yield per hectare,” read the report.
UNODC says that drought has been the key reason behind the decline.
Most of the opium poppy cultivation took place in the southern region (69 percent), followed by the western region (12 percent). The Eastern and Northern regions accounted for 8 percent and 7 percent respectively of the total cultivation. The north-eastern and central regions together accounted for 4 percent of the total cultivation.
“In 1397 (2018) Nuristan has been cleared of poppy cultivation. Another nine provinces such as Khost, Bamiyan, Kunduz, Logar, Paktia, Paktika, Panjsher, Parwan and Wardak have saved themselves from poppy cultivation. Alongside Nuristan, currently there ten provinces where opium is not cultivated,” said the minister of counter narcotics Salamat Azimi.
Azimi added: “Based on the survey, poppy cultivation dropped by 90 percent in Jawzjan, 72 percent in Badghis, 64 percent in Faryab, 30 percent in Balkh, 21 percent in Nimroz, 16 percent in Kandahar, 15 percent in Farah, 15 percent in Ghor, 13 percent in Urozgan, 9 percent in Nangarhar, 7 percent in Badakhshan and 5 percent in Helmand.”
Crops in the northern region and in Badghis province were heavily affected by a drought. Cultivation of opium poppy in Balkh decreased by 30 percent from 12,100 hectares in 2017 to 8,500 hectares in 2018. In Jawzjan, poppy cultivation decreased by 90 percent from 3,200 hectares in 2017 to 338 hectares this year, and in Badghis cultivation decreased by 72 percent from 24,700 hectares in 2017 to 6,970 hectares in 2018.
“Decreases in particularly in the northern and western regions were mainly attributed to the severe drought that hit the country during the course of the last year,” said Mark Colhoun, Representative of UNODC.
The average opium yield in 2018 was estimated at 24.4 kilograms per hectare, which was 11 percent lower than in 2017. Yields in the central, eastern and northern regions decreased notably by 47 percent, 29 percent and 19 percent respectively. Yields decreased by 8 percent in the southern region and remained stable in the western and north-eastern regions.
The southern region continued to produce most of the opium in Afghanistan (68 percent of national production), followed by the western (11 percent), eastern and northern regions (8 percent each). The north-eastern and central regions accounted for 5 percent.
The continuing high levels of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan creates multiple challenges for the country, its neighbors and the many countries where the opium ends up. The significant levels of poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates will probably continue to fuel instability, insurgency and provide funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan, officials have repeatedly warned.
The report adds: “A reduction in opium poppy cultivation was observed in all main opium poppy cultivating provinces. Bagdhis and Faryab provinces recorded the most significant reductions by 72 percent and 64 percent, respectively, in total reducing the area under cultivation by 32,400 hectares. Balkh and Nimroz also showed a reduction of 30 percent and 21 percent in area under opium poppy cultivation. Helmand and Kandahar provinces, which had the largest areas under opium-cultivation (more than 60 percent of national total), witnessed a fall of 5 percent and 16 percent respectively in 2018, amounting to a net reduction by over 12,000 hectares.”
In the southern region, opium poppy cultivation decreased in all provinces, with an exception of Zabul which saw an increase of 21 percent to 2,581 hectares. Helmand remained Afghanistan’s largest opium poppy cultivation province and accounts for 52 percent of the total area under opium poppy cultivation, although cultivation decreased by 7,220 (5 percent). Second and third largest cultivating provinces were Kandahar (23,410 hectares) and Uruzgan (18,662 hectares). As in 2018, only Kandahar carried out minor eradication (13 hectares). The western region continued to be the second most important opium poppy cultivating region in the country in 2018.
The two main poppy-cultivating provinces, Farah (10,916 hectares in 2018) and Nimroz (9,115 hectares in 2018), saw moderate decreases, 15 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Opium poppy cultivation decreased significantly by 72 percent from 24,723 hectares in 2017 to 6,973 hectares in Badghis province, which was mainly driven by drought. Opium poppy cultivation also decreased in Herat and Ghor provinces by 46 percent and 15 percent respectively in 2018. Eradication was not carried out in 2018 in the entire western region.
The Afghanistan Opium Survey is implemented annually by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) of Afghanistan in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The survey team collects data and analyses information on the location and extent of opium poppy cultivation, potential opium production and the socio-economic impact on Afghanistan, with emphasis on the rural areas.