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Opium Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan – Important Facts

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Poppy Fields
Poppy Fields

Scarce employment opportunities, lack of money, economic Instability, lack of quality education and limited access to markets,  no knowledge of economic factors, no good awareness programmes, droughts and flood situation, present COVID-19 and assured income by growing poppy, are the reasons for the increase  in acreage of Opium Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has the highest area under cultivation in 2020.The acreage has increased from what it was in the previous years and it could be attributed to Coronavirus. The Covid -19 has increased the acreage and hasn’t been affected in terms of labour also. Like every other country, lots of locals lost jobs in pandemic and many have turned towards the poppy fields to provide for their families. According to News reports in WION, shortage of workers from Pakistan encouraged majority of the labourers to turn towards helping in poppy fields. The Afghanistan schools were shut and children also resorted to work in poppy fields for extra money.

The rising Pandemic and the economic turndown, governments changing etc. may have given rise to increase in opium poppy cultivation in future years. At present the area under opium poppy is 224,000 hectares in 2020 in comparison with 61,000 hectares in 2019 which calculates to 37 percent increase. The Data got released by the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2020 and the Survey was jointly released by Afghanistan’s National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA) and UNODC.

The South West remains the country’s major opium producing region, accounting for 71 per cent of total opium production in Afghanistan. There are 12 provinces at present with Kapisa Province in the north-east losing its poppy-free status and Hilmand remaining to be the  country’s major opium poppy cultivating province. 

The cultivation of Opium Poppy is not a problem but they getting converted to heroin to be consumed in the country and abroad like Europe is the main issue.The Opium Survey is done to keep a check on the status on request from the Commission on Narcotic This helps in monitoring the extent and evolution of illicit crops and to compile reliable and internationally comparable data. The Afghanistan Opium Survey 2020 was implemented under the project “Monitoring of Opium Production in Afghanistan” (AFG/F98), with financial contributions from the Government of United States of America. With the Current government underchange and Taliban taking its power in the country we have no idea as to how the cultivation will grow and how exports will take place and who will do the survey and keep an account of  Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. 

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