Karam Khan, an opium poppy farmer from Helmand, is delighted that business is booming.
New strains of seeds mean that poppy could be sewn and harvested all year round, he said, and shrinking government control over the province has left farmers free to cultivate the illegal crop.
“We used to plant poppy once a year and collect just one opium harvest,” Khan continued.
“But now there are new seeds available on the market, so we can plant and grow and collect the opium harvest across all four seasons.”
These so-called “Chinese seeds” are famously productive, he explained, and farmers are happy to get the chance to make more money.
“Security is not good in Helmand,” Khan said.
“In addition, high youth unemployment and a lack of factories or businesses to provide jobs have forced people to begin growing poppy as they have no other option. I don’t think people can be blamed for cultivating poppy.”
According to the most recent figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, poppy cultivation across Afghanistan has increased by 43 per cent in 2016 compared to 2015.
Produced together with Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics ministry, the report also found that 4,800 tonnes of narcotics were manufactured in the country last year as compared to 3,300 tonnes in 2015.
As in previous years, Helmand was the leading producer of drugs. In 2016, 40 per cent of all Afghanistan’s poppy was grown in the southern province.
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