Afghan farmers threaten to return to poppy cultivation

News and Press Release
Originally published
KABUL, Jun 14, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Farmers in Afghanistan's northeastern province of Badakhshan have threatened to resume poppy cultivation if not provided with an alternative source of living, a newspaper report said Tuesday.

Pleading their case, the farmers argued they did not grow poppy this year in compliance with a government decree but were not given any recompense. But they would restart growing the crop if the government dose not honor its promise to give them improved seeds and jobs, Outlook reported.

But provincial security officials, arguing the compensation issue concerns the central government, said under no circumstances would the growers be allowed to return to poppy cultivation.

A 40-year-old farmer Abdul Hafiz of the Baharak district said he sowed wheat on five acres of land last year, and if he could not be assisted with what the government had promised, even his wives would come out to cultivate poppy.

Engineer Mohammad Hassan, head of the agriculture department, confirmed the government has yet to help the growers. He said security forces had destroyed 1,700 acres of poppy crop in Jurm, Baharak and Argo districts.

The crop would be destroyed in the remaining districts as well, the newspaper quoted him as saying, and 30 percent of the eradication work had already been done in this fourth largest poppy-growing Badakhshan province.

Afghanistan with an output of 3,600 tons of opium in 2003, became the largest producer of raw material used in manufacturing heroin in the world, and it secured the same position in 2004 as more farmers devoted most of their lands for poppy cultivation.

After a UN warning in 2004 that Afghanistan might become a narco-state producing 87 percent of the world's opium, the government announced that 2005 would be observed as the year of poppy eradication. Under a strategy launched in May 2003, Afghanistan has planed to reduce drug production by 75 percent by 2008.