ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghan farmers have lost more than $1 billion in income from opium sales after the Taliban banned poppy cultivation, according to a report from the U.N. anti-drug agency released Sunday.
Afghanistan was the world’s largest opium producer and a major source of heroin in Europe and Asia when the Taliban took power in August 2021.
They vowed to crack down on the country’s drug cultivation industry and imposed a formal ban in April 2022, dealing a blow to hundreds of thousands of farmers and laborers who relied on income from cultivation to survive. Opium cultivation fell by 95% after the ban, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report.
Through 2023, the value of Afghanistan’s opioid exports frequently exceeded the value of its legal exports. UN officials said the sharp contraction of the opium economy is expected to have far-reaching consequences for the country, as opiate exports before the ban accounted for between 9% and 14% of national GDP.
Afghans need urgent humanitarian assistance to meet their most immediate needs, absorb the impact of lost income and save lives, said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly.
“Afghanistan urgently needs strong investment in sustainable livelihoods to provide Afghans with non-opium opportunities,” he said.
Afghans are grappling with drought, severe economic hardship, and the continuing fallout from decades of war and natural disasters.
The crisis, along with the disruption of international financing that propped up the economy of the former Western-backed government, is driving people into poverty, hunger and addiction.
A September UNODC report said Afghanistan is the world’s fastest-growing producer of methamphetamine, and seizures of the synthetic drug are increasing as poppy cultivation declines.
Lower incomes along the opioid supply chain could spur other illegal activities such as arms, human or synthetic drug trafficking, according to the latest UNODC report.