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Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Afghan poppy ban spurs prices
Opium field in Afghanistan
Taleban banned poppy cultivation last month
By Kate Clarke in Kabul

Dealers in opium and heroin in Afghanistan say prices have risen substantially since the Taleban decreed a ban on poppy cultivation.

Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium. Most of it ends up being sold as heroin on the streets of Europe.

There has been some discussion as to whether the ban will actually be enforced, but those in the trade seem to believe it will be.

Opium dealer in Kandahar, Afghanistan
Afghanistan accounts for 75% of the world's opium
There was widespread scepticism at the end of last month when the Taleban leader, Mullah Omar, issued an edict banning the cultivation of poppies.

Earlier in the year, the UN threatened further sanctions against the Taleban for a number of reasons, one of which was the continued production of opium.

Many people pointed out that Mullah Omar's decree was timed to fall before the UN's discussion on further sanctions.

Perception

It was thought that that by next year's sowing season the ban might have been forgotten about.

But people in the drug trade are clearly taking the edict seriously.

Since the ban was announced the price of wholesale opium has doubled and the price of heroin has also risen sharply.

Harvesting opium
Taleban say farmers can switch to other crops with international help
Some dealers have been paying farmers large sums of money now, in return for a promise that they will break the law next year and sow poppy seed.

Earlier in the year, Mullah Omar said there would be a one third cut in production of opium.

Although there was some public bulldozing of fields near major highways, the actual harvest rose significantly.

Hypocrisy

An outright ban will be much more difficult to flout.

Opium has been a difficult issue for the Taleban.

They have been accused of hypocrisy, claiming they run a pure Islamic state, when they permit the production and taxation of a harmful drug.

The Taleban argue that Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and farmers need international assistance to switch to other crops.

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See also:

28 Jul 00 | South Asia
Taleban bans poppy farming
14 Jun 00 | South Asia
The Taleban's drug dividend
28 Feb 00 | South Asia
Afghan drug trade targeted
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