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UN: Most global opiate seizures are made by Iran

Tehran, Feb 3, IRNA -- More than 60 percent of global opiate seizures take place in the few countries neighboring Afghanistan and most seizures are made by Iran, followed by Pakistan, and Tajikistan.

According to a recent report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghanistan's opium production (3400 tons in 2002) has increased more than 15-fold since 1979.

Below is the executive summary and highlights of the UNODC's report, divided into 3 parts:

Part 1: Dimensions

Production and Trafficking

* Afghanistan's opium production (3400 tons in 2002) increased more than 15-fold since 1979.

* From 1996 to 1999, under the Taliban, production doubled and peaked at over 4600 tons.

* In 2000 the Taliban banned opium cultivation, but not trade.

* In 2002 opium was cultivated by most ethnic groups in the south (Helmand), east (Nangarhar) and north (Badakshan).

* Cross-border ethnic and tribal links facilitate trafficking by the Pashtuns, the Baluchis, the Tajiks, the Turkmens and the Uzbeks.

* Over three-quarters of the heroin sold in Europe and virtually all of it in Russia originate in Afghanistan.

Trade and Incomes

* The opium trade was de-facto legal in Afghanistan before and throughout the Taliban period.

* In January 2002, the Karzai administration banned it.

* Opium farmgate prices increased almost 10-fold ($300 per kg) at harvest time in 2001 compared to a year earlier as a consequence of the Taliban opium ban, and some 20-fold ($700 kg) prior to September 11. Despite a good harvest in 2002, opium prices still amounted to around $350 at harvest time in 2002, and were about $450 at the end of the year.

* Over the 1994-2000 period, gross income from opium was about $150 million/year ($750/family).

* In 2001, following the Taliban ban, prices increased 10-fold. In 2002 gross income rose to $1.2 billion ($6,500/family). Part of the income is shared with traders and/or taxed by warlords.

* Income from opium and heroin trafficking into neighboring countries amounted to at least $720 million in 2000. It may have doubled in 2002. These are extraordinary revenues in a country where the average wage does not exceed $2 per day.

Drug Abuse

* Drug abuse in Afghanistan has increased strongly in the last few years due to prolonged human deprivation and suffering, the breakdown of traditional social controls, the return of refugees who developed a drug problem in refugee camps, and the almost unlimited availability of opiates within Afghanistan.

The war wounded also became addicted as a consequence of primitive first aid and large-scale use of opium, morphine, and heroin as painkillers.

* Drug abuse in Afghanistan is still low compared to neighboring countries (Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia).

Part 2: Origins

Historical roots of the opium economy

The opium economy developed in Afghanistan because of:

* Lack of effective government administration until the recent past.

* Degradation of agriculture and most economic infrastructure due to 20 years of war.

* A war economy and related black marketeering.

* Through the 1980s and 1990s several competing factions financed their war efforts with opium revenue. Since most of the opium producing provinces came under Taliban control after 1996, the Taliban reaped the largest gains from the opium economy.

* The Taliban cultivation ban increased prices in 2001 and revalues stocks by a factor of 10. More liquidity in the hands of traders thus created further incentives for the opium economy. Poverty, devastation and farmers' motivations Afghan farmers grew opium poppies because:

* The opium trade was de-facto legal until President Karzai's ban in January 2002.

* Opium poppy is a profitable crop, produced with cheap labor (women, children and refugees).

* Inputs for opium poppy are abundant, including suitable land, water and knowhow from itinerant labor.

* Opium became a form of saving, a source of liquidity and a collateral for credit.

* Opium is an insurance against poverty and hunger: farmers sell future crops to narco-usurers for subsistence.

* Opium requires no marketing or storage as it can be sold easily on spot markets.

Bazaars, finance and narco-usurers

* Opium has become an "economic narcotic" for whole segments of Afghan society:

* As a commodity, it is an income generator.

* As a source of liquidity, it is a means of exchange.

* As a payment mechanism, it is a way to store value and fund transactions.

Opium traders frequently act as narco-usurers (money lenders), because:

* Opium serves as a means of salaam (informal advance payments).

* They need capital to assist farmers. They regenerate cash-flows via rapid turnover trade (low profit), via shipments to border regions (medium profit) or by smuggling opiates across borders (high profit). Risks vary accordingly.

Greed, warlords and opium trafficking

Opium is an ideal commodity for marketing, trade and speculation:

* It is compact to transport and durable to store with high intrinsic value ($350-400/kg). At present, only a few licit agricultural commodities, such as truffles ($800/kg) are more expensive on international markets.

* Given the high risk of interdiction at the borders with neighboring countries, high profits (5-fold increases in price) are generated by trafficking.

* It is a commodity suitable for trafficking, especially in the provinces controlled by warlords who levy a tax in exchange for protection.

* In some regions, traffickers gain respect from the local community when they recycle part of their income for the benefit of poor villages.

* There is a clear nexus between drug trafficking and warlordism, the reemergence of drug cultivation, and the recrudescence of violence in certain provinces and well-known phenomena.

Part 3: Regional consequences

* Devastation in neighboring countries.

* Trafficking

* More than 60 percent of global opiate seizures take place in the few countries neighboring Afghanistan.

* Most seizures are made by Iran, followed by Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Mega-incomes and economic vulnerability

* Opiate trafficking profits in the countries neighboring Afghanistan amount to some $4 billion in 2002, equivalent to 2 percent of GDP.

* Profits are made in Central Asia, followed by Iran and Pakistan.

* Economic growth in countries neighboring Afghanistan was below the global average.


* Countries neighboring Afghanistan suffer from rising levels of abuse.

* The strongest rise, in recent years, was in the countries of Central Asia, which were also affected by the strongest increases in drug trafficking.


* HIV/AIDS is increasing in all countries neighboring Afghanistan, notably in the countries of Central Asia;

* Central Asia has one of the highest rates of IDU-related HIV/AIDS infections in the world.

Conclusion: The way forward

Apart from supporting the central institutions of the state, the international community's support has to be targeted toward solving the problems documented in this book, which created the opium economy in the first place. The problems can be solved by:

1. Alternate crops, seeds, fertilizers and equipment for opium farmers.

2. Alternative sources of income for landless labor and returning refugees.

3. Jobs for women and schooling for children, especially girls.

4. Macro-economic structures within which commodity markets (including presently unregulated bazaars) can grow free from the perverse incentives provided by opium and other forms of contraband.

5. Informal financial structures able to extend harvest-based collateralized loans (even micro-credits) to farmers and returning refugees so as to bankrupt the narco-usurers at their game.

6. Effective law enforcement against opium markets with the country to combat the perverse economic and political impact of warlordism, and against the international trafficking of opiates.

... Payvand News - 2/3/03 ... --

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