Area under opium poppy cultivation decreased by 20% since 2017 but remains at very high levels
The total opium poppy cultivation area in Afghanistan was estimated at 263,000 (242,000 – 283,000) hectares in 2018, a 20% or 65,000 hectares decrease compared to the previous year. It is the second highest measurement since the beginning of systematic opium poppy monitoring and recording in 1994. The level of 2018 exceeds the third highest level of 2014 by 17% or 39,000 hectares.
Opium poppy cultivation decreased by some 24,000 hectares (-56%) in the Northern region, by 23,200 hectares (-43%) in the Western region and by 15,000 hectares (-8%) in the Southern region.
The strong decreases in the Northern and parts of the Western regions were mainly attributed to the adverse effects of a drought.
Most of the opium poppy cultivation took place in the Southern region (69%), followed by the Western region (12%). The Eastern and Northern regions accounted for 8% and 7% of total cultivation, respectively. The North-eastern and Central regions together accounted for 4% of the total cultivation.
Hilmand remained the country’s leading opium poppy cultivating province, followed by Kandahar,
Uruzgan,2 and Nangarhar. The number of poppy-free provinces in 2018 remained at 10, the same number as in 2017. Nuristan province regained its poppy-free status but Takhar province, which had been poppy-free since 2008, lost it. The number of provinces affected by opium poppy cultivation remained at 24.
Crops in the Northern region and in Badghis province were heavily affect ed by a drought.
Cultivation of opium poppy in Balkh decreased by 30% from 12,100 hectares in 2017 to 8,500 hectares in 2018. In Jawzjan, opium poppy cultivation decreased by 90% from 3,200 hectares in 2017 to 338 hectares this year, and in Badghis cultivation decreased by 72% from 24,700 hectares in 2017 to 6,970 hectares in 2018.
In 2018, 406 hectares of opium poppy were eradicated in four provinces, compared to 750 hectares in 14 provinces in 2017. During the 2018 eradication campaign, five lives were lost, and two persons were injured (six lives were lost and eight injured in 2017).
Potential opium yield and production decreased in 2018, reducing the potential amount of heroin produced from Afghan opium
Potential opium production was estimated at 6,400 (5,600 – 7,200) tons in 2018, a decrease of 29% from its 2017 level (9,000 tons). The decrease in production was due to decreases in area under opium poppy cultivation and opium yield per hectare.
The average opium yield in 2018 was estimated at 24.4 kilograms per hectare, which was 11% lower than in 2017. Yields in the Central, Eastern and Northern regions decreased notably by 47%, 29% and 19% respectively. Yields decreased by 8% in the Southern region and remained stable in the Western and North-eastern regions.
The Southern region continued to produce most of the opium in Afghanistan (68% of national production), followed by the Western (11%), Eastern and Northern regions (8% each). The North - eastern and Central regions accounted for 5%.
After accounting for consumption of raw opium in the region of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, it can be estimated that 5,000 to 5,300 tons of opium are potentially available for heroin production in and outside of Afghanistan. This can potentially yield some 360 to 610 tons of heroin of export quality (between 50 and 70 per cent purity) or 250 to 300 tons of pure heroin base.