Having alienated the international community by banning school for girls over the age of 12, the Taliban, who returned to power in Kabul on August 15, 2021, are now accused by the United Nations of having skyrocketed prices and the opium and heroin trafficking. . The Afghan Islamists denounce a judgment of intent when they affirm, on the contrary, that they want to suppress this culture in their territory for religious reasons.
It all started with a press release, published on 1Ahem November, from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) making a direct link between “the seizure of power by the Taliban in August 2021” and the sharp increase in opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. The UN has announced a 32% increase in the agricultural area reserved for this crop compared to 2021, “reach 233,000 hectares”. At the same time, opium prices “flew away”said the UNODC. The estimated value of this production has tripled in one year, going from 425 million dollars in 2021 to 1,400 million dollars (same amounts in euros) in 2022, for some 6,200 tons of opium, that is, the harvest “most profitable on record in years”. This represents 29% of the country’s total agricultural value, compared to 9% the previous year.
But this sharp rise in prices is not due to increased demand or production. The raw figures hide a paradoxical reality in which religious dogma, the rural world, climatic hazards and the parallel economy collide. First of all, if the area occupied by poppy cultivation has increased, this does not mean that production itself has skyrocketed. In effect, the yield per hectare, in 2022, fell by 10% compared to 2021. What, in any case, producing 350 to 580 tons of heroin of exportable quality (with a purity of between 50% and 70% ). This decrease is mainly due to the severe drought that affected the country at the beginning of the year.
Furthermore, this increase must be put into perspective. In 2021, the price of poppy paid to Afghan farmers was the lowest since the UN made these estimates. A price weakness that was not directly related to the Taliban’s seizure of power, which occurred on August 15, since the harvest runs from April to July. This low-priced opium was the result of very sustained production over four years, which saturated the market and caused its value to fall. In 2017, a record year, poppy cultivation represented approximately 328,000 hectares, enough to produce 550 to 900 tons of heroin of exportable quality, worth between 4,100 and 6,600 million dollars. Well ahead of the 2022 figures.
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