10 September 1999

Press Release



(Reissued as received.)

VIENNA, 10 September (UN Information Service) - Afghanistan's total production of raw opium for 1999 was estimated to be a record 4,600 metric tons, according to the findings of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) Annual Opium Survey. This is more than double the estimated production of 2,100 metric tons for 1998.

The survey indicates that the area under cultivation increased by 43 per cent from 64,000 hectares in 1998 to some 91,000 hectares in 1999; 97 per cent of cultivation in 1999 occurred in Taliban-controlled areas.

Cultivation of opium poppy was reported for the first time in the Jawzjan and Kunduz provinces bringing the total number of provinces where opium is grown to 18 out of the 31 in Afghanistan. The number of districts where opium was grown in 1999 increased to 104 from 73 in 1998; 80 per cent of the districts surveyed during the previous growing season experienced an increase in opium poppy cultivation this year.

Lower opium production was recorded in the Maiwand and Ghorak districts where the UNDCP is actively engaged in implementing an alternative development project. In these districts, as well as in the district of Khakrez, local authorities had reportedly eradicated 400 hectares of opium poppy in early June, following an agreement reached with UNDCP.

Opium production in Myanmar -- the only other major illicit producer of the crop -- for 1999 is estimated at about 1,200 metric tons, while an additional 300 metric tons represent the combined output of a number of countries, including the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand, Pakistan and Colombia. This brings the total estimated production of illicit opium for 1999 to about 6,000 metric tons, an increase of some 60 per cent over the total of 3,750 metric tons recorded in 1998. Afghanistan's share in 1999 accounts for 75 per cent of global output, an increase of almost 25 per cent with respect to 1998.

"The dramatic increase in the global production of opium and the record output in Afghanistan are cause for great concern", stated Pino Arlacchi,

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Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.

"UNDCP has been very successful in working together with a number of countries towards reducing production of illicit drugs. Unfortunately this has not been the case in Afghanistan and the results are there for all to see", Mr. Arlacchi said.

"What is needed at this stage is to strengthen the drug control capabilities of the countries which border Afghanistan. At the same time, it is essential that we maintain a degree of presence in Afghanistan and in Myanmar through our ongoing projects in alternative development", Mr. Arlacchi added.

"Following last year's poor harvest, the socio-economic and climatic conditions in Afghanistan were particularly conducive to opium poppy cultivation during the 1998/1999 season. Debts incurred by farmers last year and high opium prices at the time of planting led to an increase in the area of land put under cultivation. In addition, ideal weather conditions during the harvest resulted, in most provinces, in very good opium yields (quantity of raw opium harvested per hectare cultivated).

The prices of a kilogram of dry opium, which had reached the equivalent of $60 during the October-November 1998 planting season -- mainly due to poor harvest in the previous season -- fell in the south, at 1999 harvest time, to about $37, thus returning more or less to their 1997 level.

UNDCP conducts, with the approval of the local authorities, an annual ground-based survey, during which surveyors visit all the areas where opium poppy cultivation has been reported. Using a census methodology, they record the extent of opium grown in each region, opium yields and farmgate prices.

For more information contact: Sandro Tucci, Spokesperson, ODCCP Vienna; Telephone: 0043-1-26060 ext. 5629/4116/Fax: 0043-1-26060 ext.5875

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For information media. Not an official record.