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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Afghan opium prices 'crash'
Peshawar
The street value of opium has fallen in recent days
By Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad

UN officials in Pakistan say the price of Afghan opium has collapsed following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Before 11 September, one kilo of opium was selling for $700. The price is now between $200-300.

The Taleban regime in Afghanistan had outlawed poppy production, but it's now feared that cultivation will start once again.

There are two possible reasons for the collapse in opium prices - some Afghans holding stocks of opium are now trying to off-load them.

Poppy farmer
The ban on opium farming was widely resented
They fear that their opium could be destroyed in American air strikes.

Reports from the semi-autonomous tribal areas of Pakistan say that prices have been driven down by the sheer quantity being sold by Afghan traders.

Farming ban

There could be another factor - in July 2000, the Taleban announced a complete ban on poppy production and then went on to enforce it.

The UN believes the ban was so effective that production fell by 3,000 tonnes.

Unconfirmed reports from inside Afghanistan now say that if America attacks, the Taleban may reverse that ban.

Many farmers resented the loss of income associated with the ban, and the Taleban may want to win back popular support by allowing people to grown poppies once again.

The sowing season is in October and early November, and the prospect of farmers planting new crops means that opium traders are wondering whether supplies will markedly increase next year.

See also:

31 Jan 01 | South Asia
Taleban outlaws poppy
14 Jun 00 | South Asia
The Taleban's drug dividend
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