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Reason to worry: As Taliban mulls legalising poppy cultivation, here is a look at Afghanistan's opium figures

11:13 AM Oct 08, 2021 | FPJ Web Desk

Kabul: When the Taliban took over Kabul in August, the group had promised to that the poppy cultivation will be stopped amidst concerns that the drug menace in the country could get worse. But barely a month after forming the caretaker government, the Taliban leaders are now hinting that they may legalise farming of poppy, according to a report.

Afghanistan, which exports more than 90% of the world's heroin, might get fresh impetus for the drug trade under the Taliban. According to the report in Knews, the Taliban can now freely nourish and cultivate the raw element of opium and its killer byproduct, heroin.

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This comes despite the Taliban claim that they will annihilate poppy farms in the southern parcel of the war-ravished country as they endeavour to institute a hardline interpretation of Islamic Law Haji Abdul Haq Akhond Hamkar, Deputy Minister of Counter Narcotics, Ministry of Interior indicating that the door is still open to potential "legalisation" of farming -- providing Afghans are not the ones harmed.

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"We either create alternative jobs or legalize it. Then the problem is solved," Hamkar conjectures. "We are working on it; we are open to the idea." Some in Taliban leadership are of the view that legalising the poppy would help them in growing the war-battered economy of Afghanistan.

The high pharmaceutical-contingent nations utilise the poppy fields in countries such as Australia and Turkey as a legal means to harvest the plants required for opioids and other critical painkillers.

"If such a thing is possible, it's best to work on legalising it. It will help grow the economy, and we won't have to put a lot of effort into it because it's already being cultivated widely," surmises Mawlawi Noor Ahmad Sayeed, the Director of Information and Culture in Kandahar.

Afghanistan opium fact sheet

Afghanistan has been among the world's top illicit drug-producing countries and exports more than 90% of the world's heroin.

The total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan was estimated at 224,000 hectares in 2020, which represents an increase of 37% or 61,000 hectares when compared to 2019, as per a UN report.

Potential opium production in Afghanistan was estimated at 6,300 tons.

Local farmers in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Helmand provinces said raw opium prices have tripled, from about $70 to about $200 per kilogram, due to uncertainty about future production , as per a Mint report.

Multiple reports indicate that poppy cultivation and drug trafficking provide a big income source for the Taliban, mainly in the southern and northern parts of the country.

Most of the drug smuggling goes through Iran and the Taliban make a big buck with it. Taliban so far have a crackdown on small drug dealers and but big dealers have been given a free pass.

During the previous regime, the Taliban made profits through taxes on the opium crop and indirectly through processing and trafficking, said the US State Department, as per a BBC report. A 10% cultivation tax is reportedly collected from opium farmers.

Also Read: Taliban leader Anas Haqqani glorifies Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi who 'smashed Somnath idol'; enraged Indians say 'it stands tall and proud'

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