Afghan farmers bear $1 billion loss due to Taliban’s ban on growing opium

A report released on Sunday by the UN narcotics agency states that since the Taliban banned poppy production, Afghan farmers have lost more than USD 1 billion in revenue from the sale of their opium.

When the Taliban took control of the country in August 2021, Afghanistan was the largest grower of opium in the world and a significant supplier of heroin to Europe and Asia.

They vowed to destroy the nation’s drug-growing sector and put an official ban in place in April 2022, severely hurting the hundreds of thousands of farmers and day laborers who depended on the crop’s profits for subsistence.

According to a UN Office on Drugs and Crime assessment, the cultivation of opium fell by 95% after the ban.

Until 2023, the value of Afghanistan’s opiate exports frequently outstripped the value of its legal exports.

UN officials said the strong contraction of the opium economy is expected to have far-reaching consequences for the country as opiate exports before the ban accounted for between 9-14 per cent of the national GDP.

Afghans need urgent humanitarian assistance to meet their most immediate needs, absorb the shock of lost income and save lives, said UNODC executive director, Ghada Waly.

Afghanistan is in dire need of strong investment in sustainable livelihoods to provide Afghans with opportunities away from opium,” she said.

Afghans are dealing with drought, severe economic hardship and the continued consequences of decades of war and natural disasters.

The downturn, along with the halt of international financing that propped up the economy of the former Western-backed government, is driving people into poverty, hunger, and addiction.

A September report from the UNODC said that Afghanistan is the world’s fastest-growing maker of methamphetamine, with seizures of the synthetic drug increasing as poppy cultivation shrinks.

Lower incomes along the opiate supply chain could stimulate other illegal activities like the trafficking of arms, people or synthetic drugs, the most recent UNODC report said.

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