Press Releases

    25 November 2004

    Record Opium Cultivation in Afghanistan Is a Threat to Central Asia and CIS Countries

    VIENNA, 25 November (UN Information Service) -- According to the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2004, just released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium cultivation in Afghanistan grew by 64 per cent in 2004, a statistic which promises increased trafficking and a steady supply of high-grade heroin for Central Asia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

    Announcing the Survey findings to the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC, stated, “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.”

    “In Afghanistan, drugs are now a clear and present danger,” added Mr. Costa. “Central Asian neighbours, particularly Tajikistan with its direct borders to the northern Afghan provinces, and also Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, can expect  major increases in trafficking. The strongest increases in opium production were indeed in the northern (+132 per cent) and north-eastern provinces (+39 per cent) of Afghanistan.”

    “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.

    According to the UN report “…opium cultivation has spread to all of Afghanistan’s 32 provinces, making narcotics the main engine of economic growth: valued at US$2.8 billion, the opium economy is now equivalent to over 60 per cent of Afghanistan’s 2003 GDP. “ This increase in cultivation  also represents a  growing and significant health risk: 30 per cent of  the heroin produced in Afghanistan leaves the country via Central Asia, a region where heroin addiction, the accompanying risk of  HIV/AIDS, and drug-related deaths are on the rise.   

    The UNODC Executive Director indicated there were also reasons to be encouraged: “Countries neighbouring Afghanistan have committed themselves to strong bilateral and sub-regional cooperation against drug trafficking, part of the Good Neighbourly Relations Declaration signed in Berlin in April 2004. Under this new effort, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan will work together closely on new joint border control measures.”

    Mr. Costa 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. 

    Mr. Costa continued, “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 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%