THE United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has published a report on opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, which has decreased by an estimated 95 per cent following a drug ban imposed by the de facto authorities (the Taliban) in April 2022.

The sharp reduction has had immediate humanitarian consequences for many vulnerable rural communities who relied on income from cultivating opium. Farmers’ income fell by more than 92 per cent, from an estimated US$1,360 million for the 2022 harvest to US$110 million in 2023.

Until 2023, the value of Afghanistan’s opiate exports alone has frequently exceeded the value of the country’s legally exported goods and services. The strong contraction of the opiate economy in 2023, which shrank by 90 per cent overall, is expected to affect Afghanistan’s economy on a larger scale.

Many farmers turned to cultivating wheat instead, with an overall increase of 160,000 hectares in cereal cultivation across the Farah, Hilmand, Kandahar, and Nangahar provinces. Though wheat cultivation may alleviate food insecurity to some extent, the crop generates much less income than opium – farmers in the four provinces lost around US$ 1 billion in potential income in 2023 by switching to wheat.

In a separate report published in September 2023, UNODC said that methamphetamine trafficking in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries is surging, indicating a rapid expansion of the drug’s manufacture and a possible reshaping of illicit drug markets previously dominated by Afghan opiates. Seizures of methamphetamine of suspected Afghan origin have been reported in places as far away as the European Union, the Near and Middle East, South-east Asia and Eastern Africa.

* Read: Understanding Illegal Methamphetamine Manufacture in Afghanistan here.

* Read the Afghanistan opium survey 2023 here here.

* Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime