Opium production in Afghanistan increased by 87 per cent to a record level of 9,000 metric tons in 2017 compared with 2016 levels, according to the latest Afghanistan Opium Survey figures released today by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and UNODC. The area under opium poppy cultivation also increased to a record 328,000 hectares (ha) in 2017, up 63 per cent compared with 201,000 hectares in 2016.
In a statement delivered at the survey’s launch, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said: “It is high time for the international community and Afghanistan to reprioritize drug control, and to acknowledge that every nation has a shared responsibility for this global problem.”
The increase in production is mainly a result of an increase in the area under opium poppy cultivation, while an increase in opium yield per hectare also contributed. The largest increase of yields occurred in the Southern region where the average yield grew by 19 per cent and the north-eastern region, with a 14 per cent rise.
Afghanistan is the world’s top cultivator of the poppy from which opium and heroin are produced. The 2017 record levels of opium production and poppy cultivation create multiple challenges for the country, its neighbours and the many other countries that are transit for or destination of Afghan opiates. Increased insurgency and funding to terrorist groups is likely within Afghanistan while more high quality, low cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world leading to increased consumption and related harmful consequences.
The average opium yield is at 27.3 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha) – 15 per cent higher than in 2016. A total of 750 ha of poppy eradication was carried out by the provincial Governors in 2017. This represented an increase of 111 per cent from 2016 when 355 hectares were eradicated. In 2017, eradication took place in 14 provinces, compared to 7 provinces in 2016. During the latest eradication campaign, six lives were lost and eight people were injured.
As noted in the survey, opium poppy cultivation has expanded to new regions and strong increases were observed in many provinces.
The number of poppy-free provinces in the country decreased from 13 to 10. After more than a decade, Ghazni, Samangan and Nuristan lost their poppy-free status. The number of provinces affected by cultivation increased accordingly from 21 to 24.
In Hilmand alone, cultivation increased by 63,700 hectares (79 per cent), accounting for about half of the total increase. This was followed by Balkh (+10,000 ha), Kandahar (+7,500 ha), Nimroz (+6,200 ha), and Uruzgan (+6,000 ha).
The southern region has the country’s largest share of national opium production with 57 per cent recorded, which equals some 5,200 metric tons (MT). Afghanistan’s second most important opium producing region is the Northern, responsible for 16 per cent of national production (1,400 MT), followed by the western region with 13 per cent (1,200 MT). The remaining areas (eastern, north-eastern, and central regions) together, accounted for 12 per cent of opium production.
During the same reporting period, the average farm-gate prices at harvest time decreased in all regions of Afghanistan ranging from minus 7 per cent in the west to minus 50 per cent in the north-east. The only exception was the Southern region, where prices remained stable and decreased only after the harvest.
Amounting to US$ 1.39 billion and equivalent to roughly 7 per cent of Afghanistan’s estimated GDP, the estimated farm-gate value of opium production in 2017 increased by 55 per cent when compared to 2016 levels.