Afghan poppy farmers say new seeds will boost opium output

May 5, 2015 7:09 AM–finance.html

ZHARI, Afghanistan (AP) — It’s the cash crop of the Taliban and the scourge of Afghanistan — the country’s intractable opium cultivation. This year, many Afghan poppy farmers are expecting a windfall as they get ready to harvest opium from a new variety of poppy seeds said to boost yield of the resin that produces heroin.

The plants grow bigger, faster, use less water than seeds they’ve used before, and give up to double the amount of opium, they say.

No one seems to know where the seeds originate from. The farmers of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where most of Afghanistan’s poppies are grown, say they were hand-delivered for planting early this year by the same men who collect the opium after each harvest, and who also provide them with tools, fertilizer, farming advice — and the much needed cash advance.

To the villagers, the shadowy men are intermediaries for drug lords and regional traffickers working with or for the Taliban, underscoring the extensive web that fuels the opium trade and keeps the poppy farmers in a clasp of terror and dependency. The impoverished famers have little recourse but to accept the seeds and other farming materials on credit, to be paid back when they harvest the crop, continuing a never ending cycle of debt.

Afghanistan’s poppy harvest, which accounts for most of the world’s heroin, is worth an estimated $3 billion a year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Production hit a record high in 2014, up 17 percent compared to the year before, as opium and the drugs trade continued to undermine security, rule of law and development, while funding both organized crime and the Taliban — often one and the same.

The trend is expected to continue in 2015, in part thanks to the new poppy seeds, according to officials tasked with overseeing the eradication of poppy crops.

This upcoming harvest in late spring is expected to surpass last year’s country-wide record of 7,800 metric tons (8,600 U.S. tons) by as much as 7 percent and 22 percent in Kandahar and Helmand provinces respectively, local officials said.

Experts say the Taliban, who have been waging war on the Kabul government for more than a decade, derive around 40 percent of their funding from opium, which in turn fuels their insurgency.

Fierce fighting in recent months in poppy-growing regions shows the Taliban’s determination to protect their trafficking routes and the seasonal workers who come to earn money at harvest time from government forces under orders to eradicate the crop.

Gul Mohammad Shukran, chief of Kandahar’s anti-narcotics department, said the new seeds came with the drug traffickers, but he did not know exactly where from. They yield “better drug plants, which require less water and have a faster growth time.”

“This is a big threat to everyone,” he said, adding that Afghanistan’s central authorities had failed to act on his warnings.

Growing poppy for opium is illegal in Afghanistan and forbidden under Islam, the country’s predominant religion. But Afghan farmers feel they have no choice. For more than a decade the government and its international partners have pleaded with them to grow something else — wheat, fruit or even saffron.

When that didn’t work, the police were sent to destroy crops. And when that failed, the Americans and the British tried handing out free wheat seeds, an enterprise that found little fertile ground.

This spring, the opium fields have again erupted in a sea of bright pink poppy flowers.

The new poppy seeds allow farmers to almost double the output from each plant, said Helmand’s provincial police chief Nabi Jan Malakhail. At harvest, collectors cut the bulb of the plant, allowing the raw opium to ooze out. This resin dries and is collected the following day.

Malakhail said the new seeds grow bulbs that are bigger than usual and can be scored twice within a few days, thus doubling the quantity of raw opium. The plants mature in three to four months, rather than the five months of the previous seed variety, allowing farmers to crop three times a year instead of just twice.

In Kandahar’s Zhari district, farmer Abdul Baqi said he knows poppy growing is illegal and that, given a choice, he would “rather eat grass.” But, he added, “I cannot feed my kids with nothing but the air.”

Baqi said the Taliban and associated crime gangs make it easy for the farmers to produce opium, and difficult — even deadly — not to.

Without government support, it’s impossible to grow food crops as the cash-strapped farmers would have to pay for the seeds, tools, fertilizer and irrigation themselves. No one would come and collect their crop, even if their landlords allowed them to grow wheat or other food.

If the government took charge and provided irrigation and power, Hismatullah Janan, another Zhari poppy grower, said he would gladly change to growing wheat or similar crops “so we could make an honest and decent living, and leave this so-called dirty work behind.”

Afghan anti-narcotics officials say they need international assistance to proceed with poppy eradication.

Yet since 2002, the United States has spent at least $7 billion “on a wide variety of programs to reduce poppy cultivation, prevent narcotics production, treat drug addiction and improve the criminal justice system to combat drug trafficking,” John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control in January.

Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world’s opium and opiates originating from there find their way to every corner of the globe, Sopko said.

The Taliban will also likely be emboldened, since for the first time this year, there are no international combat troops on the battlefields of Afghanistan after the NATO drawdown at the end of 2014.

Many anti-narcotics officials also left, fuelling concerns that Afghanistan’s economic addiction to opium, worth around 15 percent of its gross domestic product, would only grow, Sopko added.

Almost 90 percent of Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation is in the south and the west — and provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar, longtime Taliban strongholds, have become synonymous for poppy cultivation.

As opium production rises, so does Afghanistan’s own drug addiction problem. Estimates put the number of heroin addicts in the country at between 1.5 million and 2 million in a population estimated at around 30 million. And the unchecked Afghan opium production is also blamed for rising drug addiction in neighboring countries, including the former Soviet republics to the north, Iran to the west, and China and Pakistan to the east.

The UNODC can do little beyond encouraging the government to curb opium production, said the organization’s chief in Afghanistan, Andrey Avetisyan.

Kabul, with the support from the international community, he said, needs to find a way to introduce “crops that can be a serious competition to opium.”

But for now, finding something more lucrative than the mystery poppy seeds is a daunting task, so the vicious opium cycle continues.

One comment

  • theunhivedmind

    These seeds haven’t come from the Taliban they’ve come from Empirical forks of New Venice (Britain). This is just another copy of the old events in India as New Venice used India to grow the prime poppies used against the nation of China. Today many nations including England, Scotland, Wales, United States and even Russia are the targets of New Venice heroin destruction. You can bet that the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London have created this new seed which is probably a GMO variety. This was the same evil Freemasonic merchant lodge who created the prime poppies which originated at Kew Gardens before it was shipped off for mass plantation in India commanded by the Viceroy of India (British agent). Today the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London (big pharma) preps the upper and middle class population to become heroin addicts by using their quack doctors of death to peddle opioid painkillers like Skittles candy. Eventually the doctor pulls the new opioid addict off the painkillers or the medical prescription costs force the patient to turn to the much cheaper heroin. Another way these Freemasonic pirates are aiding their heroin agenda is to dramatically increase the potency to 90% instead of the old 20-30% so now the heroin can be smoked and the victim will get the same strength high as the old injections. By removing the injection junkie image the society of village idiot victims end up being more vulnerable to society brainwashings and peer pressures as the new normality comes into play during the post-industrial zero-growth society. Now you can see why the George Osborne allows illegal drugs sales as part of the gross domestic product figure to the UK economy. You shouldn’t be surprised by Osborne’s actions when we watch him high-as-a-kite in Parliament looking around the room like he’s on cloud nine. Lets also not forget Osborne’s crack addicted adviser Prof Douglas McWilliams.

    .·´ ¸.·★¨) ¸.·☆¨)
    ★(¸.·´ (¸.*´ ¸.·´
    `·-☆ The Unhived Mind

Leave a Reply