Saturday, January 14, 2012

The one industry that's booming in Afghanistan: Earnings from opium soar 133% in a year to $1.4bn

Last updated at 6:20 PM on 13th January 2012
Earnings from opium production in Afghanistan soared by 133 per cent last year to about $1.4 billion, or about one-tenth of the country's GDP, according to a United Nations report received Friday.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said the price rise was due to a plant disease that wiped out much of the opium crop in 2010. Although yields returned to pre-blight levels in 2011, the prices have remained high, the survey said.
Definitive statistics are hard to obtain in Afghanistan, but the survey said the value of the crop may now be the equivalent of nine percent of the country's GDP.
Afghanistan graphic
'Opium is therefore a significant part of the Afghan economy and provides considerable funding to the insurgency and fuels corruption,' said Yury Fedotov, director of the Vienna-based agency.
Earnings from opium finance weapons and equipment purchases for the Taliban.
Afghanistan provides about 90 percent of the world's opium, the raw ingredient for heroin. The U.N. and the Afghan government have long tried to wean the country off the lucrative crop.
The largest areas of opium poppy cultivation are in the violent south of Afghanistan, where it can be hard to make money on legal crops and where criminal networks exist to buy and sell the poppy crop.
Most farmers surveyed said they were primarily motivated by the high prices gained by opium poppy cultivation, particularly in comparison with wheat, which suffered a fall in price last year. 
Trade: An Afghan farmer collects raw opium from his poppy field
Trade: An Afghan farmer collects raw opium from his poppy field

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