HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Fall In Afghan Poppy Cultivation
Pubdate: Sun, 27 Mar 2005
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2005 BBC
Author: Zaffar Abbas


A new survey on drugs in Afghanistan indicates the recent increase in poppy
cultivation has been reversed.

In most of the country's 34 provinces, farmers are growing alternative
crops, the survey by the Afghan government and UN Office on Drugs and Crime

It is the first time a decrease has been registered since the surge in poppy
cultivation that followed the fall of the Taleban.

But there is still an upward trend in five provinces, the survey warns.

Poppy cultivation was banned by the Taleban regime in its last years, but
with the regime's fall, it returned in most areas as the main cash crop,
raising fears of increased heroin production for the European market.

Stricter controls

The new survey's findings are based on a preliminary or rapid assessment
survey carried out in more than 200 villages in half of Afghanistan's total
number of districts.

The survey does not provide exact statistics, but says there are positive

It indicates a significant reduction in poppy cultivated area in most of the
34 provinces, including Nangarhar, Helmand and Uruzgan.

This is in clear contrast to the findings of last year's annual survey,
which suggested that the cultivated area had grown by 64% compared to 2003.

UN and Afghan officials say the new trend is largely because of stricter
controls and a policy of providing alternative crops to farmers.

But they caution that cultivation is still on the rise in five provinces,
including the former Taleban stronghold of Kandahar.

According to the Afghan minister for narcotics control, Habibullah Qaderi,
continuous drought in these areas and the inability of the authorities to
provide funds for a suitable alternative crop were responsible for the

Officials admit the survey is only a trend indicator and say a clear picture
will emerge when the annual drug survey is carried out later this year. 
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