Authorities’ support encourages Afghan farmers to replace poppy with legal crops

The opium cultivation in Afghanistan fell from 233,000 hectares to 10,800 hectares in 2023, leading to a 95 percent drop in the supply of opium, from 6,200 tons in 2022 to 333 tons in 2023, the report noted.

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Poppy pods are seen in a field in Kandahar, Afghanistan, April 3, 2022. (Photo by Sanaullah Seiam/Xinhua)

Once being one of the world’s biggest opium producer, the war-torn Afghanistan has been gradually getting out of the mire of such illicit drugs, as the farmers have been encouraged to replace poppy with legal crops.

“The government’s support for the farmers by providing improved seeds and pesticides, and launching supportive programs have encouraged farmers to replace illegal crops with legal ones,” director of information and culture of the Jawzjan province Mawlawi Saifudin Motasim said.

Sitting in his office, the turbaned and bearded official emphasized, “The farmers in Jawzjan have given up poppy cultivation and instead grew legal crops including cotton, asafoetida and cumin.”

The opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has reduced by an estimated 95 percent since the country’s caretaker government imposed a drug ban in April 2022, according to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime last November.

The opium cultivation in Afghanistan fell from 233,000 hectares to 10,800 hectares in 2023, leading to a 95 percent drop in the supply of opium, from 6,200 tons in 2022 to 333 tons in 2023, the report noted.

However, some of the farmers who have replaced poppy with legal crops are facing economic hardships, saying they cannot feed their families with the income from growing wheat and other grains.

“I now cultivate a variety of vegetables in my land and on average earn 100,000 (1,400 U.S. dollars), 200,000 or 300,000 afghanis, annually and in the past, I cultivated opium poppy and earned 300,000 to 500,000 afghanis each year,” farmer Ghulam Mohidin told Xinhua.

Working on his 16 acres of farmland to plant onion, okra and tomatoes, the 50-year-old Mohidin and bread earner of a 12-member family said that a poor market for his products, lack of subsidy and years of drought have been among the grave challenges to his life. 

“Since the banning of poppy cultivation, I began planting wheat which is not enough to run life smoothly,” Hajji Abdul Ghafoor, another former poppy grower in the southern Kandahar province, said.

Nevertheless, Ghafoor, 64, welcomed the ban on poppy cultivation, saying opium poppy is haram in Islam and the outcome of its cultivation was nothing more than addiction to drugs for Afghans.

Ghafoor called upon the Afghan caretaker government to support farmers like him by providing more options, such as the saffron farm, vineyard or pistachio garden to replace poppy farms.

“Our economic benefit was much higher in the past when we cultivated poppy,” another farmer Bismillah Jan said. However, he stressed, “Due to poverty we cultivated poppy in the past to support our families. It is not good because the youngsters got addicted.” (1 U.S. dollar equals 71.2 afghanis)

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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