WAR-battered Afghanistan, the world’s biggest producer of opium can now claim the title of world leader in hashish production as well, a key UN report has found.
The farm-gate value of Afghanistan’s illicit opium production was estimated at $438 million last year compared to $39-94 million for cannabis resin or hashish, a report by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime said today. But in its first survey of cannabis production in Afghanistan, UNODC said the resin yield from Afghan cannabis is the highest in the world.
“While other countries have even larger cannabis cultivations, the astonishing yield of the Afghan cannabis crop makes Afghanistan the world’s biggest producer of hashish estimated at between 1500-3500 tonnes a year,” said UNODC Executive Director, Antonio Maria Costa. The yield of resin (hashish) from Afghan cannabis is 145 kilograms per hectare compared to 40 kilograms per hectare in Morroco.
While Afghanistan is better known as the world’s biggest producer of opium, up to 24,000 hectares of land is used for growing cannabis, the study claimed.
Gross income per hectare earned from cannabis production, $US3900, is higher than opium, $US3600.
Like opium production, five years of conflict and lawlessness has seen cannabis production shift from the north to the south where instability is widespread.The drug is also providing a major source of funding for Taliban insurgents.
In 2008, a massive 245,000 kg shipment of cannabis was intercepted in Kandahar close to the Pakistan border.
“All drugs in Afghanistan, whether opium or cannabis, are taxed by those who control the territory, providing an additional source of revenue for the insurgents,” said the UNODC chief.”Afghanistan’s drug problem is even more complex than just opium trade.
“Yet, the remedy remains the same.
“By improving security and development in Afghanistan’s drug-producing regions, we can knock out the world’s biggest supplies of both hash and heroin,” Mr Costa said.
The Australian Federal Police has more than a dozen agents posted in Afghanistan.
They are based in the capital Kabul and southern Oruzgan where their duties include gathering intelligence on the narcotics trade.
By Mark Dodd