Afghan Poppy Boom a Bane for Iran

Afghan Poppy Boom  a Bane for IranAfghan Poppy Boom  a Bane for Iran

A  fghan poppy farmers are cultivating high-yielding seeds which produce bigger plants, grow faster than traditional varieties, and require less water.

The new varieties are adapted to tough growing conditions such as drought and low inputs: they need no pesticide and use less fertilizer, IRNA reported.

It is still uncertain how the seeds have been developed and in which laboratories. But according to Kandahar and Helmand province farmers, the major opium producers in Afghanistan, the purchasers who buy their crops in bulk after the harvest are the same.

With the widespread use of the new seeds this year, opium and heroin production in the neighboring country is expected to increase at a greater rate than before.

Afghanistan’s poppy harvest, which accounts for most of the world’s heroin, is worth an estimated $3 billion a year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Production hit a record high in 2014, up 17 percent compared to the year before.

The trend is expected to continue in 2015, in part thanks to the new poppy seeds, according to officials tasked with overseeing the eradication of poppy crops.

This upcoming harvest in late spring is expected to surpass last year’s country-wide record of 7,800 metric tons by as much as 7 percent and 22 percent in Kandahar and Helmand provinces respectively.

This spring, the opium fields have again erupted in a sea of bright pink poppy flower.


Opium production in neighboring Afghanistan represents a major challenge for Iran. The country’s geographical location, particularly its porous 1,923 km-long eastern border with Afghanistan- the world’s largest illicit opium producer - has turned it into a major transit route for illicit drugs.

In the face of Afghanistan’s unprecedented boom in opium production, Iran is forced to spend millions of dollars annually on border patrolling, including construction of expensive barriers. More than 3,700 national law enforcement officials have been killed and over 12,000 have been maimed in counter-narcotics operations over the last three decades, according to UNODC reports.

Iran also lies on a major drug route between Afghanistan, Europe and the Persian Gulf states. Every year, it burns about 100 tons of seized narcotics as a symbol of its determination to fight drugs.

 Output Doubles

Meanwhile, Helmand’s provincial police chief Nabi Jan Malakhail said the new poppy seeds help Afghan farmers to almost double the output from each plant. At harvest, collectors cut the bulb of the plant, allowing the raw opium to ooze out. This resin dries and is collected the following day.

As opium production rises, so does Afghanistan’s own drug addiction problem. Estimates put the number of heroin addicts in the country at between 1.5 million and 2 million in a population estimated at around 30 million.

“Kabul, with support from the international community, needs to find a way to introduce crops that can be a serious competition to opium,” said Gul Mohammad Shukran, chief of Kandahar’s anti-narcotics department.

But for now, finding something more lucrative than the mystery poppy seeds is a daunting task, so the vicious opium cycle continues, he added.