Society and norms – Crime, Vice and Trafficking in Persons: Opium Production

Viewpoints

This video highlights the plight of many farmers.

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One part of the Afghan economy continues to flourish – Afghanistan has nearly cornered the market in the cultivation and harvest of the poppy – the source of opium.  Afghanistan supplies virtually all of the world's illegal opium [93% in 2007].  In 2007, the country's opium production hit a record 8,200 tons, generating $4 billion in revenue [60% of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product].  The southwestern Pashtun-dominated region of the country is the primary area of poppy production. Profits from the illicit trade are a principal source of revenue for the Taliban and fuels insurgent activity.  Getting Afghanistan to end its reliance on the opium poppy as its chief export is a pillar of U.S. policy there. 

Most Afghans are personally conflicted regarding the poppy.  Approximately half a million poor families make a living in poppy fields, drawing an average wage of about $2,000 per year. They recognize the harm opium and the crime associated with trying to control its production brings to their country and to their people, but the harvest has served as a reliable cash crop where instability offers few alternatives.  One bright spot in the economy is the production of saffron.  World demand for this extremely expensive spice seed is on the rise and Afghanistan is a perfect location for its cultivation.  Many farmers are choosing saffron farming to avoid risking loss of their entire crop to Afghan government and coalition eradication efforts.

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