Poppy cultivation surges in Kandahar, Helmand

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The cultivation of poppy for opium production has surged in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar this year compared to previous years, farmers said.

“There is nothing else to cultivate. We were growing wheat before. This year—we want to cultivate poppy. Previously they were asking for bribes every day but we don’t have that problem this year,” a farmer said.

TOLOnews reporter Abdullah Hamim paid a visit to the southern provinces and found that opium and other drugs are being sold in open markets.

The south of Afghanistan, which is considered a fertile area to grow wheat and other products, is seeing a surge in poppy cultivation. The two provinces of Kandahar and Helmand have been recognized as one of the top poppy producers.

Mohammad Kareem is a farmer who has been growing poppy for the past 15 years. Kareem is expecting his harvest to be ready within the next month.

“If we don’t cultivate poppy, we don’t get a good return, the wheat doesn’t provide a good income,” he said.

“There are no restrictions this year. If the Taliban wanted to ban it, they must let us grow it this year at least,” said Peer Mohammad, a farmer.

The cultivation of poppy has caused many children to take time away from education to work in the poppy fields.

The families of these children said that they are forced to send their children to work because they face severe poverty.

“I have not studied at school because I was busy working in the fields,” a resident said.

However, some farmers have planted wheat and other products instead of poppy in their farms.

“Those who cultivate poppy, they suffer from poverty, and they think that they will earn more,” said Gul Mohammad, a farmer.

Meanwhile, the deputy minister of counter-narcotics said that poppy cultivation and drug smuggling has increased by 45 percent in Afghanistan this year compared to the same period last year.

Authorities in Afghanistan said that poppy is currently cultivated on over 200,000 hectares of land in different regions of the country and that Afghanistan still produces 80 percent of the world’s opium.

Meanwhile, the deputy ministry of interior on Thursday burned 67 metric tons of drugs in Kabul.

“We burned some heroin, morphine, poppy, hashish and alcohol that is used in the production of heroin,” said Wahidullah Kalimzai, deputy minister of counter narcotics.

“The structure of the commando forces must be expanded so that we are able to prevent smuggling by air and ground monitoring,” said Hashem Alokozai, a senator.

There are thousands of drug addicts currently on the streets. Ali is an addict who has been using the drug for the past 20 years.

“They are not treating it in the right way, they just keep us there for a specific period of time,” said Ali, referring to treatment programs for addicts.

The Afghan Ministry of Public Health said that currently there are around 3.5 million addicts in Afghanistan.

“The difference in the numbers between 2009 and 2016—900,000 in 2009 and 3.5 million now–indicates a rising trend,” said Zahir Sultani, the head of Ibn-e-Sina hospital.

Over the past two decades, the US allocated $8 billion to counter the drug problem in Afghanistan.—Tolonews

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