OPIUM POPPY CULTIVATION IN AFGHANISTAN AT
VIENNA, 28 February (UN Information Service) - A pre-assessment survey of opium poppy cultivation, conducted by the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) from 1 to 10 February, confirms earlier indications that cultivation has resumed at a "relatively high level" throughout the country after the considerable decline recorded in 2001. The UNDCP Country Office for Afghanistan and the Illicit Crop Monitoring Programme (ICMP) conducted a pre-assessment survey in 208 villages in 42 districts in the traditional opium poppy growing areas of Southern and Eastern Afghanistan in the provinces of Helmand, Qandahar, Oruzgan, Nangarhar and Kunar. Those five provinces accounted for 84 percent of the total opium poppy cultivation area in Afghanistan in 2000. The Northern region of Afghanistan was not included in the pre-assessment survey because the colder climate in that area usually delays the opium poppy planting season and cultivation is not observed clearly in February.
Based on the findings of this limited survey, and assuming that poppy cultivation also resumed in provinces not covered by the pre-assessment, it is estimated that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan could cover an area between 45.000 ha and 65.000 ha in 2002.
This range of estimates compares to the levels of cultivation reached during the mid-1990s, but remains lower than those recorded in 1999 (about 95,000 ha) and 2000 (about 82,000 ha).
Based on an average national yield of 41 kg per hectare over the past 8 years, the resulting production of opium harvested between March and August 2002 in Afghanistan could reach between 1,900 and 2,700 metric tons of opium. Production in 1999 reached a record of 4,600 mt, while in 2000 it was 3,300 mt.
The Afghan interim authorities banned opium poppy cultivation on 17 January 2002. At that time, however, most opium poppy fields had already been sown. Although most farmers interviewed during the pre-assessment survey said they were uncertain currently about being able to harvest opium this spring because of the ban, the high prices offered by local traders create a powerful incentive.
A comprehensive survey covering all opium poppy growing villages in Afghanistan will be conducted by UNDCP during the opium poppy flowering and opium harvesting period, in April and May 2002 in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan, and from June to August in Northern Afghanistan. This census will provide detailed data and more precise estimates of opium poppy cultivation and opium production in 2002. The results of the comprehensive survey will be released in September 2002.
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