Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fungus hits Afghan opium poppies

By Bethany Bell - BBC Online

A serious disease is affecting opium poppies in Afghanistan, Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has said.

Mr Costa told the BBC that this year's opium production could be reduced by a quarter, compared with last year.

He said the disease - a fungus - is thought to have infected about half of the country's poppy crop. Afghanistan produces 92% of the world's opium.

Mr Costa said opium prices had gone up by around 50% in the region.

That could have an impact on revenues for insurgent groups like the Taliban which have large stockpiles of opium, he added.

The fungus attacks the root of the plant, climbs up the stem and makes the opium capsule wither away.

It was affecting poppies in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, the heartland of opium cultivation and the insurgency in Afghanistan, he said.

Nato 'blamed'

Some local farmers believe Nato troops are responsible for the outbreak, but Mr Costa denied that this was the case.

"I don't see any reasons to believe something of that sort," he said. "Opium plants have been affected in Afghanistan on a periodic basis."

Mr Costa also said this was an opportunity for the international community to bring in support to try to persuade farmers to turn away from planting opium.

He said the amount of opium produced by one hectare (2.47 acres) had almost doubled to 56kg (123lb) in the five years to 2009.

"Nature really played in favour of the opium economy; this year, we see the opposite situation," he added.

Mr Costa said that farmers now grew opium poppies in only five or six Afghan provinces, as opposed to all 34 five years ago.


  1. Well I understand that this is some farmers only option for work but this is only a good thing. The devastation drugs cause and not least the money to get them off the streets is beyond most people's comprehension. Hopefully giving the farmers other options will get rid of the last lot of fields.
    Knew the good guys would get the blame, haha. If it was that easy, you'd do it to every field and all the time, haha.
    Sarah x

  2. I have never understood why these plants have been allowed to continue to grow - a couple of years ago I said the fields should have been burnt, however this is obviously a great way of getting rid of them - don't believe we should wait for 'mother nature' though - Oh, for those who feel sorry for the farmers - we compensate the Afghans for this, that and the other so a few fields is nothing - burn them and give them a variety of seeds to compensation.