Cannabis Cultivation Down by 17pc: Survey
KABUL -A yearly report released in Kabul on Tuesday showed the cultivation of commercial cannabis (marijuana) in Afghanistan had decreased by 17 percent last year, officials said. A joint venture of the Afghan Counternarcotics Ministry and the United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC), the survey covered 16 provinces, where commercial cannabis cultivation had been observed or reported in past surveys.
“Statistics show the total area under commercial cannabis cultivation in 2012 was estimated at 10, 000 hectares, or 17 percent less than in 2011,” deputy counternarcotics minister Mohammad Ibrahim Azhar told a joint press conference with UNODC Regional Director Jean-Luc Lemahieu.
“A case to the point is that the licit agricultural production this year is at a high level and this is not different for the cannabis yields,” Azhar said. Despite the drop in acreage, he said, more cannabis powder (garda) could be extracted from the fields compared to the previous year (136 kg/ha in 2012, compared to 112 kg/ha for 2011).
The potential production is estimated at 1,400 tons, an increase of 21 percent, a joint press release issued after the press conference said. “Growing cannabis remains lucrative despite a downward correction in prices observed since the peak in 2011,” the statement said.
In 2012, it added farmers potentially achieved a gross income of 6,400 US dollars per hectare from cannabis resin, exceeding the gross income from opium (4,600 US dollars per hectare) the same year.
“Limitations for farmers to move from opium to cannabis relate to water access, the long vegetation cycle making double cropping near impossible, and the summer season of planting which competes with food crops and vegetables indispensable for the farmer families,” it noted. The statement quoted Lemahieu as saying: “While it is nice to bring some positive news out of Afghanistan, complacency would be very misplaced at a time where the illicit economy seems thriving.”
“Too many aid actors consider illicit crops as alien do their work and prefer to have nothing to do with it. This negatively affects the implementation of the national drug control policy, artificially compartmentalises agriculture as if a farmer’s brain can be split in two halves, a licit and an illicit one, and finally bounces back through insecurity and corruption impacting the aid provided,” he said (PAN)