According to a survey by the United Nations, there has been a 95% decrease in opium cultivation in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Opium Survey 2023, published on Sunday, reported a decrease of 95% in opium production, dropping from 6,200 tons in 2022 to 333 tons in 2023. This was due to a decrease in cultivation area, from 233,000 hectares to 10,800 hectares over the same time frame.
UNODC has stated that the significant decline of the opium market will have widespread impacts and emphasizes the critical requirement for assistance in developing alternate industries to create a future without opium for the people of Afghanistan.
According to Ghada Waly, the Executive Director of UNODC, this provides a significant chance to work towards sustainable outcomes in combating the illegal opium trade and its harmful effects on both local and global levels.
She emphasized the need to address significant consequences and risks in order to achieve a positive and sustainable outcome, particularly for the citizens of Afghanistan.
The study mentioned that the significant decrease has resulted in immediate humanitarian impacts for numerous at-risk rural populations who depended on earnings from growing opium.
According to the survey, the revenue earned by farmers from selling opium harvested in 2023 decreased by over 92% compared to the previous year. The estimated earnings for the 2022 harvest were $1,360 million, but in 2023, it dropped to $110 million.
“According to Ms. Waly, the people of Afghanistan are currently in dire need of humanitarian aid to address their urgent needs, cope with the impact of reduced income, and save lives. She also emphasized the importance of long-term investment in sustainable livelihoods for the country, particularly for farmers who may benefit from alternatives to opium cultivation.”
Treatment options limited
The UNODC highlighted that while opiate use is prevalent in Afghanistan, there are not many evidence-based treatment options available.
The recommendation was to incorporate evidence-based treatment into public health initiatives and support, in order to prevent individuals with opioid use disorders from resorting to potentially more dangerous substances.
The UNODC cautioned that reducing heroin production in Afghanistan could result in less trafficking and usage, but it could also potentially create a rise in dangerous substitutes like fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.
According to seizure data, traders are liquidating their opium stocks from previous high-yielding harvests in order to cope with the shortage in 2023, as the production of heroin has declined.
However, there has been a significant increase in the trafficking of methamphetamine in the area.