Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan


    In News

    • Recently, a new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was released highlighting the cultivation of Poppy in Afghanistan.

    Key Points

    • Demand and need driven cultivation: 
      • Driven by the demand for heroin and other opioids, mostly in the West, Afghanistan’s poppy farmers have figured out that in a broken country where there are no jobs, and the de facto government has no money, poppy guarantees survival.

    Image Courtesy: IE 

    • Thriving industry in Afghanistan: 
      • Afghanistan’s illicit narcotics industry thrived under the puritanical first Taliban regime, it flourished through two decades of democracy, and it continues to do so under the new Taliban regime.
      • Eighty percent of the world’s opiates come from Afghanistan.
    • Poppy Cultivation: 
      • Land: In 2021 (October and November are the sowing season), it increased by 32 per cent over the previous year. 
        • Last year, poppy was sown on 233,000 hectares, and in some places, farmers even replaced traditional crops with poppy.
      • Climate: If the harvest (in spring) had not been affected by a drought that hit many parts of Afghanistan, there would have been a bumper crop.

    Image Courtesy: IE 

    • Price spike: 
      • A ban on cultivation imposed by the Taliban in April 2022, exempted the standing crop and harvest, and sent the price of opium shooting.
    • Alternatives: 
      • The 2021 harvest of 6,200 tonnes, 10 per cent less than in 2021, could be converted into 350-380 tonnes of export-quality heroin. 

    Global Scenario

    • The supply source for this huge underground economy is now concentrated in three areas: 
      • Afghanistan, 
      • South-East Asia (mostly Myanmar) and 
      • Latin America (Mexico and Colombia). 
    • Together, they supply nearly all the world’s illicit opium and heroin, but Afghanistan stands out among this group, accounting for around 90% of global illicit opium production in recent years. 

    Impact on India

    • Rising health costs: 
      • Among illicit narcotics, opiates are also the most costly in terms of treatment, medical care and, arguably, drug-related violence. 
      • In addition, heroin is the drug most associated with injection, which brings about a host of acute and chronic health problems, including the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. 
      • 45% of Heroin in India originates from Afghanistan.
    • Stability and security: 
      • Beyond its health impact, the illicit opiate industry also has a detrimental effect on stability and security in a number of places, including through the funding it provides for insurgents in production areas, particularly in Afghanistan. 
    • Terrorist angle:
      • There is ‘deep concern about links between illicit drug production, trafficking and involvement of terrorist groups, criminals and transnational organized crime.’

    Reasons Behind the Drug Menace in India

    • Misguided Youth and Peer Pressure psychology
    • Lack of awareness about socio-legal and health consequences
    • Proximity with Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle:
      • Golden Triangle: 
        • It includes the regions of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. 
        • It is Southeast Asia’s main opium-producing region and one of the oldest narcotics supply routes to Europe and North America.
      • Golden Crescent: 
        • It includes Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.
        • It is a principal global site for opium production and distribution.       


    • Farmer’s income increase:
      • The income of farmers from opium sales more than tripled from $425 million in 2021 to $1.4 billion in 2022
      • 29 per cent of the Afghan agricultural sector’s total value in 2022, higher by 20 percentage points over the previous year.
    • Employment generation:
      • As a labour intensive crop, poppy was a great source of employment in rural Afghanistan, and led to other trickle-down economic activities. Distributing the work of revenue collection was also a way to keep the factions within from rebelling.

    Challenges being faced in Afghanistan

    • Financial: Still international outcasts and with no access to global funding, they are scrambling to raise money by levying taxes, as humanitarian aid keeps Afghanistan going.
    • Regional concern:
      • Russia and Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbours view drugs as a top concern, more perhaps than the threat of religious extremism, radicalisation, and terrorism. 
      • India has voiced concerns about it from time to time. 
      • At the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation security meetings, the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan are discussed as inter-related threats to regional and global security.

    Way Ahead

    • International cooperation: Foster international cooperation for fighting the enduring problem of drug trafficking. The development of international accountability mechanisms and best practices would greatly increase interception capacity. 
    • Global Monitoring: Enhance expert access to the dark web in order to take down online markets and platforms. Implement real-time data monitoring systems for promptly detecting and addressing drug market changes. 
    • People-centered Approach: Implement an integrated, people-centred and human-rights based approach to empowering African societies to develop sustainable solutions to drug use.
    • Public-private Partnerships: Improve government response to drug trafficking on the internet by forging public/private partnerships with internet service providers, tech companies, shipping and mailing companies. 
    • Awareness-Raising and Communication: Use fact-based information to raise awareness of the potential harm from non-medical use of cannabis. Need to close the gap between perception and reality by educating young people and safeguarding public health.

    Know about Opium

    • Opium comes from the sap in unripe poppy-seed pods. 
    • The sap dries into a brown latex that contains alkaloids which produce a host of narcotic and pharmaceutical drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, morphine and codeine.

    Image Courtesy: Opium 

    Source: IE