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Taliban ban Afghan opium poppy cultivation

April 4, 2022

The Taliban are taking steps to halt Afghanistan's opium trade even as the country's economy crumbles. It is unclear how the Taliban government plans to replace this illicit source of income for millions of farmers.

Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, 2013
The US spent more than $8 billion in a bid to halt opium poppy production during its years in AfghanistanImage: Rahmat Gul/AP/picture alliance

The Taliban said Sunday that they are banning the cultivation of opium poppy, which is used as a raw material to produce illicit drugs like heroin.

The ban comes during opium harvesting season in southern Afghanistan, and a Taliban spokesman said that farmers could be jailed and their crops burned if they harvested poppy. 

The order also outlaws the trade of heroin, hashish and alcohol.

Afghanistan's booming opium economy

Opium poppy is an important source of employment and income in Afghanistan, with millions of farmers relying on harvesting opium to survive. 

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, the country's economy collapsed after international donors pulled funding. Without international support, many jobs in the public and private sectors dried up.

Afghan economy depends heavily on opium

Humanitarian organizations warn that Afghanistan could face a hunger crisis, as people do not have enough money to buy food. 

In light of the opium ban, Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi has asked international donors for their cooperation to help find alternative businesses for farmers, Afghan media outlet TOLO news reported. 

Afghanistan is the world's top source of opium, accounting for more than 80% of the world's supply of opium products, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. 

Afghanistan generates annual revenue of at least $1.8 billion (€1.6 billion) from producing opium products, according to UN data.

The Taliban had imposed a similar ban on trade of opium in late 1994 and early 1995. But the ban was rescinded after the Taliban was removed from power in 2001.

Taliban funding relies on drugs, mining and extortion

rm/wmr (AP, dpa)