Afghanistan: Opium Eradication Up, but No Direct Effect on Production

Published: 05 December 2012


A recent UNODC report on opium production in Afghanistan has revealed that government led efforts to eliminate opium poppy cultivation increased eradication by 154 percent from 2011-2012, but that net cultivation increased anyway.

Nearly 10,000 hectares (ha) of poppy were eradicated in 2012 compared to just under 4,000 ha in 2011. Total cultivation (after eradication) increased to an estimated 154,000 ha, up from 131,000 last year.

The report concluded that:

  • Market forces are greater predictors of opium production than government or religious sanctions. Cultivation of the poppy plant is banned by the Afghani government and is also against Islam. It is nonetheless a major source of income for Afghani farmers.
  • Those surveyed by the UNODC indicated that high price of opium was the top reason for growing poppy. Secondary reasons were also fueled by economic conditions: the potential for high income off little land, a desire to provide for one’s family, the provision of basic food and shelter.
  • Though total poppy cultivation was up – primarily in response to high prices in 2011 – expected opium production is significantly down. Once again, this has little to do with government action. A combination of disease among the poppy plant and adverse weather conditions in areas of heavy cultivation were to blame.
  • Increased violence was linked to increased eradication efforts. Government teams were attacked by farmers and resistance groups 117 times in 2012. Those “security incidents” resulted in 102 deaths, as compared to 20 deaths from 48 total incidents in 2011.