Press Releases

    18 November 2004

    United Nations Drugs Office Reports Major Increase in Opium Cultivation in Afghanistan

    VIENNA, 18 November (UN Information Service) -- This year, opium cultivation in Afghanistan has increased by 64 per cent compared to 2003, according to the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2004, released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

    “In Afghanistan, drugs are now a clear and present danger,” stated Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC.

    Announcing the Survey findings during a press briefing in Brussels, Mr. Costa added, “With 131,000 hectares dedicated to opium farming, this year Afghanistan has established a double record -- the highest drug cultivation in the country’s history, and the largest in the world.”

    At the same time, bad weather and disease lowered the 2004 opium yield per hectare by almost 30 per cent, resulting in a total output (4,200 tons) that exceeds last year’s by 17 per cent.  According to the 2004 UNODC Survey, “…nature-related productivity decline capped Afghanistan’s 2004 opium production at an amount still lower than the Taliban’s 1999 peak of 4,600 tons. ”

    “Afghan annals will record 2004 as contradictory. Political progress towards democracy culminated in the near plebiscite election of President Karzai. For this splendid accomplishment we all salute President Karzai’s courage and determination. Yet, opium cultivation, which has spread like wildfire throughout the country, could ultimately incinerate everything  -- democracy, reconstruction and stability,” noted Mr. Costa in the Survey’s preface.

    Bill Rammell, United Kingdom, Minister Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, also participated in the press briefing. 

    “As today’s UN Survey makes clear, the challenge is substantial and complex -- but we and the Afghans are in this for the long haul. We will be working with the Afghan government and all their international partners to ensure increased activity and delivery over the next 12 months.”

    According to the UN report, “…opium cultivation has spread to all of Afghanistan’s 32 provinces, making narcotics the main engine of economic growth and the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome peoples. Valued at US$2.8 billion, the opium economy is now equivalent to over 60 per cent of Afghanistan’s 2003 GDP.”

    Mr. Costa elaborated on those statistics, saying “The fear that Afghanistan might degenerate into a narco-state is slowly becoming a reality as corruption in the public sector, the die-hard ambition of local warlords, and the complicity of local investors are becoming a factor in Afghan life.”

    The UNODC Director indicated there was also reason to be encouraged: “The building blocks to tackle opium cultivation and production have been developed, and important positive signs are emerging.”

    The UNODC Director has asked the Afghan government to pursue four goals in 2005:

    (i)     a significant eradication campaign; 

    (ii)    prosecution of major drug trafficking cases;

    (iii)   measurable actions against corruption in government;

    (iv)   a reinforced counter-narcotics structure. 

    Because of the strong links between drugs and terrorism, Mr. Costa called on the international community, funding partners, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Enduring Freedom Coalition forces to engage in commensurate initiatives to support the Afghan government’s counter-narcotic drive. These include: 

    (i)   measures to alleviate poverty in the countryside;

    (ii)   military operations against labs and traffickers’ convoys;

    (iii)  support to fight corruption within the army, the police, the provincial administrations and the judiciary;

    (iv)  enhanced assistance for the improvement of the judicial system. 

    “Afghanistan’s 10 year counter-narcotics strategy, based on improved living conditions for farmers, determined law enforcement against traffickers, and strong  demand reduction, remains valid,” said Mr. Costa.

    He continued, “And drug developments in Afghanistan contradict trends in the rest of the world. Drug production is decreasing on every continent. Cocaine production in the Andean region has decreased by 30 per cent in the last three years.  In South-East Asia, opium production has diminished by 75 per cent and the Golden Triangle -- which still evokes tragic memories of drug addiction and death -- may soon be declared drug free. Morocco is also reducing the cultivation of cannabis.

    “In counter-narcotics, there is no silver bullet. The opium economy in Afghanistan has to be dismantled with democracy, the rule of law and economic improvement -- it will be a long and difficult process. It cannot be done ruthlessly as it was done by the Taliban, nor with mindless disregard for the country’s poverty.  It would be a historical error to abandon Afghanistan to opium, right after we reclaimed it from the Taliban and Al Qaeda,” concluded UNODC’s Executive Director. 

    * *** *

    Fact Sheet - Afghanistan Opium Survey 2004


    On 2003


    Net opium poppy cultivation

    131,000 ha

    + 64%

    80,000 ha

        % of agricultural land



        number of provinces affected

    32 (all)


    Average opium yield

    32 kg/ha

    45 kg/ha

    Production of opium

    4,200 mt


    3,600 mt

         % of world opium production  



    Households cultivating opium


    + 35%


    People cultivating opium

    2.3 million

    1.7 million

         % of total population (23 million)



    Average farm price of fresh opium


    - 67%


    Afghan export value of opium

    US$2.8 billion

    + 22%

    US$2.3 billion

         % of 2003 GDP (US$ 4.6 billion)



          - gross profits of Afghan traffickers

    US$2.2 billion


    US$1.3 billion

          - farm value of opium production

    US$0.6 billion

    - 41%

    US$1.02 billion

    Yearly income to opium families


    - 56%


    Per capita income to opium families

    US$ 260

    - 56%


    Afghanistan’s GDP per capita




    Gross income from opium per ha.


    - 64%


    Gross income from wheat per ha.


    - 17%