Afghanistan poppy production could skyrocket due to spike in prices, drought
Afghanistan poppy farmers see 'cash bonanza' due to price spike, says United Nations, forewarning of increased planting of the opium-producing crop that pads insurgents' wallets.
(Page 2 of 2)
It is plausible that farm-gate prices – but not cross-border prices – rose rapidly.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“It takes time for the price of opiates outside Afghanistan to increase, and the farm-gate price hike is never completely passed at the wholesale or retail market,” says Mr. Chouvy. Sales from stockpiles could also have curbed price rises, he adds.
Ongoing drought is incentive to plant poppy
But if the price differential is partly a time lag, this year could be a feast for traffickers, especially if farmers rush to grow poppy this winter, bringing the farm-gate prices down with rising supply.
And farmers may do just that. First, the currently high farm-gate prices make the crop more attractive. Drought conditions are an added incentive, warns Mr. Azhar.
“When farmers buy water or when they bring water from somewhere else, it is very expensive for them and they do not make good profit to grow legitimate crops,” he said, according to a Noor TV translation from BBC Monitoring.
Poppy not only fetches higher prices, but requires less water than many crops.
“Opium production is largely resorted to as a way to cope with food insecurity,” says Chouvy. Poor wheat yields spur greater poppy cultivation in the winter, which is what may be happening now. “Less wheat means more opium both because opium is needed to buy wheat and because the price of wheat rises and requires more opium to pay for it.”
These variables are all constantly in flux, however, complicating both predictions and short-term responses.
One solution: raise wages
Mr. Fedotov with the UNODC urged the international community to continue investing in alternative livelihood programs as well as efforts to improve security and fight corruption.
While Chouvy emphasizes that the problem requires decades of effort, he says some near-term approaches include raising employment and wages, which puts competitive pressure on the labor-intensive cultivation of poppy.
“The best way to kill poppy is to put laborers into other jobs,” agrees Allison Brown, an agricultural expert in Afghanistan.
She adds that poppy is not a no-brainer for farmers, whose decisions can be shifted by seasonal and market dynamics. “If poppy were such a sure-fire cash earner then Afghans would be growing it all year round. They don’t because lots of other crops make more money in the summer.”
(Editor's note: The original version of this article incorrectly described the poppy plant.)
IN PICTURES: Afghanistan aid