Opium production in Afghanistan has been surging for years despite all efforts to eradicate it, but this year mysterious high-yielding super seeds could create an even bigger crop - and more heroin on the market.
Afghan farmers are preparing for a bumper crop of the already lucrative poppies, as new seed promises larger, faster growing plants that need less water and produce more resin, the main ingredient in heroin.
The cash crop worth up to 12 times what traditional crops garner on the market has surged in popularity among Afghan farmers since the US-led invasion. Under the Taliban's strict ban, poppies were virtually eradicated in 2001, but production levels have rebounded and exceeded previous levels by far.
With Afghanistan supplying upwards of 80% of the world's illicit opium — a world market worth an estimated $3 billion — the new, high yield variety has authorities worried.
"This is a big threat to everyone," Gul Mohammad Shukran, chief of the anti-narcotics department in Kandahar province told the Associated Press, noting that the central government had been unresponsive to the problem.
Despite their previous ban under Taliban rule, poppies are now a cash crop for the political movement and criminal organizations — sometimes overlapping — and the trade continues to undermine security in the region. Experts believe that up to 40% of the Taliban’s operating funds come from the opium trade, making it a key part of their decade-long insurgency against the government in Kabul.
The origins of the seeds are murky, the AP reports, with farmers in Kandahar and Helmand provinces only able to report that they receive them from the same drug lord middlemen that collect the resin at the end of each harvest in late spring.
Sputnik News/May 7, 2015
Photo poppies: Telegraph.uk
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