CIA ‘mission accomplished’ in Afghanistan: Afghan poppy farmers say new seeds will boost opium output
It’s the cash crop of the Taliban and the scourge of Afghanistan — the country’s intractable opium cultivation. This year, many Afghan poppy farmers are expecting a windfall as they get ready to harvest opium from a new variety of poppy seeds said to boost yield of the resin that produces heroin.
The plants grow bigger, faster, use less water than seeds they’ve used before, and give up to double the amount of opium, they say.
No one seems to know where the seeds originate from. The farmers of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where most of Afghanistan’s poppies are grown, say they were hand-delivered for planting early this year by the same men who collect the opium after each harvest, and who also provide them with tools, fertilizer, farming advice — and the much needed cash advance.
To the villagers, the shadowy men are intermediaries for drug lords and regional traffickers working with or for the Taliban, underscoring the extensive web that fuels the opium trade and keeps the poppy farmers in a clasp of terror and dependency. The impoverished famers have little recourse but to accept the seeds and other farming materials on credit, to be paid back when they harvest the crop, continuing a never ending cycle of debt.
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, as opium and the drugs trade continued to undermine security, rule of law and development, while funding both organized crime and the Taliban — often one and the same.
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.