Opium production in Afghanistan has fallen by an estimated 95% in the past year, according to a new UN report.
According to data from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production fell from 6,200 tonnes in 2022 to just 333 tonnes in 2023.
This would mean that the surface area of poppy cultivation has decreased by 233,000 hectares to currently only 10,800 hectares. The cause is a drug ban that the Taliban authorities introduced last year.
The collapse of the opium economy will have far-reaching consequences for the region, according to the UN.
“This offers a real opportunity to achieve long-term results against the illicit opium market and the damage it causes both locally and globally,” he said. Ghada WalyExecutive Director of UNODC.
“At the same time, there are important consequences and risks that need to be addressed for an ultimately positive and sustainable outcome, especially for the Afghan people,” she added.
By this she refers to the need for alternative development support for Afghan farmers to build an opium-free future for the Afghan people.
“Today, the people of Afghanistan urgently need humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs, cushion the shock of lost income and save lives.”
The report notes that the sharp decline has had immediate humanitarian consequences for many poor rural families who depended on income from opium cultivation.
Farmers’ income from opium sales has fallen by more than 92%, from an estimated $1.36 billion for the 2022 harvest to $110 million in 2023.
“Today, the people of Afghanistan urgently need humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs, cushion the shock of lost income and save lives,” Waly said. According to her, strong investments are needed in the coming months to offer farmers opportunities away from opium.
Beyond Afghanistan’s borders, less heroin could lead to reduced trafficking and use, or it could lead to the emergence of harmful alternatives such as fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, UNODC warns.
Seizure data indicate that traffickers are selling their opium stocks from past record harvests to survive the 2023 shortage. Heroin production has clearly decreased, the report said.
The smuggling of other drugs, especially methamphetamine or crystal meth, is on the rise in the region.