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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Afghans planting opium after strikes
Field of poppies
A Taleban ban on planting is being ignored
The United Nations Drug Control Programme has warned that US strikes against Afghanistan will almost certainly lead to a rise in opium production.

Bernard Frahi, head of the UNDCP's southwest Asia office, said fields were being prepared for planting, ready for the October-May growing season.


We have been told that farmers are resuming poppy cultivation in several area

Bernard Frahi of UNDCP

Mr Frahi said farmers were planting in expectation that the Taleban government, reeling from US air strikes, will not be able to enforce a July 2000 ban on poppy cultivation.

That ban led to a 94% fall in poppy production in the last growing season, according to an UNDCP report issued last week.

Mr Frahi said it would be impossible for the UN to accurately gauge the rise in production as all foreign staff were evacuated from Afghanistan after the 11 September attacks.

The ban on opium production was decreed by the Taleban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Replanting

Large areas were successfully destroyed and replanted with wheat.

However, in territory held by the rebel Northern Alliance in north-eastern Afghanistan, opium production rose dramatically.

Man guarding a field of poppies in Afghanistan
The UN says farmers are planting again

Mr Frahi said heroin prices had not risen because of the reduced supply because there were still considerable stocks left from previous years.

Mr Frahi also said it was unlikely the Taleban were involved in large scale drug trafficking.

"If the Taleban had organised the drug trafficking they would have kept the production," he said.

US concern

US intelligence reports also indicate that opium production is resuming.

"They may have told people they can plant, they may tell people nothing and allow them to plant, or there may be enough chaos with the war that it won't matter what the Taleban says," US State Department official R. Rand Beers told the New York Times.

American officials, aware that taxes on farmers and traders of opium are a major source of revenue for the Taleban, have begun to look more closely at the fact that drug money may have financed terrorist attacks such as those on 11 September.

"We had a situation that showed promise that is now headed in absolutely the wrong direction," he said.

See also:

30 Sep 01 | South Asia
West fears heroin flood
28 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's turbulent history
26 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
UN drugs warning for Asia
16 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Record opium haul on Tajik border
29 Oct 00 | South Asia
Taleban warns farmers on opium
28 Oct 00 | South Asia
Taleban destroy heroin laboratories
22 Sep 00 | South Asia
Taleban cash appeal to radicate opium
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