Poppy cultivation decreased by 19 percent and opium production by 48 percent in Afghanistan this season for the first time in six years, a new survey released on Wednesday indicated.
The joint survey by the Ministry of Counternarcotics and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows 183,000 hectares of land was cultivated with the illicit poppy crop in 2015 --- down 19 percent from 2014 when 224,000 hectares of land was brought under poppy cultivation.
The survey also records a 48 percent drop in opium production from 6,400 tonnes last year to 3,300 tonnes this year. Around 40 percent increase has also been seen in destruction of poppy crops. Salamat Azimi, counternarcotics minister, told journalists in Kabul it was the first time such a decline in poppy cultivation and opium production had been witnessed compared to previous years. She cited coordination and efforts by security forces in destroying poppy fields as a major reason for the decline. She said casualties among security forces this year had also declined by 50 percent.
She said 13 security personnel were killed and 26 more wounded while destroying poppy fields last year, but this year five personnel killed and 18 wounded.
Azimi said the conflict, unemployment, poverty and migration were main reasons for the increasing number of drug addicts, adding that measures had been taken by her ministry in cooperation with relevant organisations to rehabilitate and collect addicts from streets.
According to the Afghan government, the population of drug addicts in Afghanistan has increased from 1.6 million in 2012 to three million in 2015. It shows 11 percent of Afghanistan population is addicted to some kinds of drugs.
Andrey Avetisyan, UNODC regional representative, said insecurity was a major challenge to counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan.
He said the decline in poppy cultivation mainly occurred in Kandahar, Daikundi, Zabul, Nimroz, Herat, Kapisa, Badakhshan, Laghman, Farah and Nangarhar provinces.
According to Avetisyan, poppy cultivation rose this year in the north due to insecurities. He said provinces like Uruzgan, Badghis, Ghor, Baghlan, Kabul, Faryab, Balkh, Kunar and Sar-i-Pul saw an uptick in poppy cultivation.
He said despite a 16 percent decrease in opium production in Helmand, the southern province remained top opium producing region.
“Drug is a world-wide problem and for resolving it there is need for coordination and cooperation among Afghanistan and the international community. We hope the security situation will improve so that we gain better results from our efforts,” he added.
Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, deputy interior minister for counternarcotics, said laboratories that played a major role in heroin processing had been shifted to instable areas or out of the country. He said since the beginning of the current solar year more than 45 tonnes of drugs, chemicals and alcoholic drinks had been seized in over 1,800 operations. He said more than 1,700 drug smugglers had also been detained.
During the operations, he said, 16 personnel of the interior ministry’s counternarcotics department have been killed and 14 more wounded.
According to the survey, poppy crop was not cultivated in 14 provinces this year, while the number of poppy-free provinces was 15 last year.