24 November 2005

UNODC Executive Director Reveals Cannabis Cultivation in Afghanistan

30,000 Hectares Dedicated to Cannabis; Drug Addiction on the Increase in Afghanistan

VIENNA, 24 November (UN Information Service) -- Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), addressed new findings from the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2005, and also unveiled details from a 2005 UNODC survey on drug use in Afghanistan, during a press briefing at United Nations headquarters in New York.

 "We have some startling reports about cannabis cultivation in Afghanistan," said the UNODC Executive Director. "In 2005, farmers set aside a whopping 30,000 hectares for growing cannabis -- fully one-third the amount dedicated to cannabis cultivation in Morocco, the world's number one supplier of the drug," continued Mr. Costa.

The Afghanistan Opium Survey 2005 documents a 21 per cent decrease in opium cultivation, but progress in various provinces has been uneven. While Nangarhar recorded a stunning 96 per cent decline, in the provinces of Farah and Balkh, cultivation increased by more than 300 per cent. Regional shifts culminated in decreased cultivation in eastern Afghanistan, where coalition forces have increased security, and increased cultivation in northern, southern, and western Afghanistan, where terrorists and insurgents straddling the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran and Uzbekistan collect "transit fees" from traffickers moving drugs out of the country en route to Europe and Russia.

Afghanistan supplies 87 per cent of the world's opium, making it the leading supplier of the drug. Annual gross profits to opium farmers, however, equal only US$1,800 per farming family, while traffickers made more than US$2.14 billion in gross profits this year. The disparity between drug revenues that remain in Afghanistan and money that ends up outside the country underscores the contention of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who visited Mr. Costa at UNODC headquarters in Vienna last week. According to President Karzai, "Opium is giving the people of Afghanistan a bad name, and criminalizing our culture, while fattening the bank accounts of other people in other places."

Mr. Costa expressed major concern regarding a possible increase in opium cultivation in 2005, triggered by perceived inadequate assistance to farmers, the poor security situation in some of the provinces, and reports that the fears of farmers are diminishing, and that traders are distributing opium seeds free of costs to villagers.

Mr. Costa also used the press briefing in New York to focus on a new UNODC survey on drug use in Afghanistan. The survey on drug use represents a partnership between UNODC and Afghanistan's Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the Ministry of Public Health. More details will be provided during a press conference to be held in Kabul on 24 November, when UNODC regional representatives will brief reporters and disseminate the survey to the public.


For more information, contact:

Kathleen Millar
Deputy Spokesperson, UNODC
Telephone: +43 1 26060 5629
E-mail: kathleen.millar@unodc.org