“A mysterious blight is devouring Afghanistan’s southern poppy crop, with the United Nations predicting that the 2010 opium yield may be down by as much as one-third.
At first glance, this might seem like good news. An enormous drop in the opium yield means drug traffickers, corrupt officials, and the Taliban, who tax and protect the poppy trade, make less money â€¦ right?
Wrong. When supply goes down, prices go up. Farm-gate values for raw opium, which had been dropping after years of overproduction, have shot up more than 60 percent, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which tracks yield and values across Afghanistan.
And that’s good news for everyone holding large stockpiles of opium or processed narcotics — the Taliban, drug traffickers, and other power brokers who smuggle narcotics. The UNODC has estimated that more than 11,000 metric tons are stockpiled around Afghanistan and the region. If opium yields are down this year, those stockpiles will gain in value.
Another problem is that poppy farmers are convinced that NATO is behind the blight, which seems to be linked to an infestation of aphids. It’s not enough that the fruit-eating bugs are munching through regular crops, too, or that USAID is trying to help farmers save their orchards. In conspiracy-theory-prone Afghanistan, many suspect a Western plot…"
2010-05-16 03:00:21 UTC