Afghan opium and drug yield, concerns India

As per investigations undertaken by monitors of drug trafficking in India, 22 out of 34 states of Afghanistan are engaged in opium cultivation.
Afghanistan is the world's top cultivator of the poppy, from which opium and heroin are produced.
Afghanistan is the world's top cultivator of the poppy, from which opium and heroin are produced.

With Afghanistan re-emerging as the global narcotic hub with cartels now manufacturing value added high-cost narcotics and psychotropic products like ‘meth’, besides exporting huge amounts of opium derivatives, the Ministry of Home Affairs have asked national drug monitors to review the situation every 30 days amidst proof of close nexus between drug and terror outfits operating in India.

Opium yield up 32% in 2022 with 2.33 lakh hectares under poppy cultivation

Besides being one of the largest suppliers of opium-based derivatives of the world, the drug cartel of Afghanistan under Taliban regime is now focussing on production of value-added products like meth-Amphetamine that promises huge margins to peddlers in addition to opium cultivations. The new trend has set bells ringing amongst the enforcement agencies here as the tri-junction comprising India, Sri Lanka and Maldives is being used to push the banned stuff into Africa, South-east Asia, Australia and the nearby areas, sources in the Narcotics Control Bureau said.

The matter has become a major concern for anti-drug agencies in India monitoring drug smuggling in the region after investigations into a major drug haul by the special cell of Delhi police towards the end of 2022.  During the operation 312.5 kgs of methamphetamine and 10 kgs of heroin worth over Rs 1,200 crores in the international market were seized from two Afghan nationals living in Delhi. “It was the largest amphetamine seizure ever,” said a source in the Narcotics Control Bureau adding that “investigations into the initial seizure led to the recovery of over 600 bags of the substance from a location in Lucknow UP.”

The threat is also corroborated by a recent report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC – Opium cultivation in Afghanistan, which states that, “The challenges faced by the Afghan population impede the ability to lessen its dependence on income generated from opium, which remains its main export product with well-established markets and trafficking networks. The current contraction of licit economic opportunities makes households even more vulnerable to engaging in illicit activities such as opium and cannabis cultivation, and heroin and methamphetamine manufacture and trafficking.”

As per investigations undertaken by monitors of drug trafficking in India, 22 out of 34 states of Afghanistan are engaged in opium cultivation. The findings have further been corroborated by the UNODC report that states that Opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased by 32% over the previous year to 233,000 hectares – making the 2022 crop the third largest area under opium cultivation since monitoring began.

The report further adds that Opium prices have soared following the announcement of the cultivation ban in April 2022. The income made by farmers from opium sales tripled from USD 425 million in 2021 to USD1.4 billion 2022.

The situation has put agencies in India specially with the establishment of narco-trafficking linkages with terrorism in the wake of multiple raids by the National Investigation agency in the recent past. “In the wake of the recent development all state police heads have been asked to coordinate with the NIA and NCB and collaborate in investigation and interrogations to crack the larger network.”

Meanwhile, commenting on the incomes of Afghan farmers, the UNODC report further states that “sum still represents only a fraction of the income made from production and trafficking within the country. Increasingly larger sums are further accrued along the illicit drug supply chain outside the country. “Seizures of opiates around Afghanistan indicate that trafficking of Afghan opium and heroin has not stopped. Afghanistan supplies 80% of global opiate demand,” the report asserts, adding that most of the 2023 opium crop must have already been sowed by November.  

Meanwhile, the trend of shifting towards ‘meth” took shape amidst the threat of ban on opium cultivation, which still continues unabated, the UNODC report states. The agency of the methamphetamine manufacturing has now become another option and in now an added concern amidst ineffective surveillance of opium in the region.

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