Despite being contrarian to Islamic beliefs, opium production is one of the biggest industries for the war-torn country.
Afghanistan alone is responsible for supplying more than 90 per cent of the world’s opium, the raw material for manufacturing heroin to drug addicts all across the globe. Myanmar, trails in second place.
Approximately 12 per cent of the land in Afghanistan is arable, and almost 6 per cent is used for growing poppy.
Not only does this trade exacerbate a global drug crisis, is also one of the biggest reasons for the Taliban and other insurgent groups’ resilience in Afghanistan.
It has been estimated that the Taliban reaps between $100 million and $400 million annually in illicit opium income, money that has fuelled their ability to purchase weapons, supplies, militants, and other instruments that aid their war cause.
Research has also suggested that as many as 80 per cent of personnel from the Ministry of Interior have benefitted from the drug trade, whether it be from transportation fees, bribes or profits.
Last year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the country needed 400,000 Afghan soldiers and police to defend itself, and that works out to about US$10 billion annually. Afghanistan has a current budget of US$1.1 billion, of which US$400 million comes from foreign donors.
Though the opium trade amounts to nearly 30 per cent of the Afghan gross domestic product (US$15 billion for 2010), it is unlikely to ever be legalized and therefore providing much valued tax revenue.
Coming up with alternative livelihoods for Afghanistan’s impoverished opium farmers is a huge challenge and until now, no one has been able to offer a viable and sustainable alternative. Until now, that is.
Read the full story by Michele Lin on EconomyWatch: Antidote To Afghanistan’s Opium Addiction: Red Gold
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