14 May 2012, REUTERS — KABUL
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Afghan government drug chief announces stepped-up security forces in effort to eradicate opium production. But warns: resulting higher prices will mean more violence.
To cash-strapped Afghan farmers, the opium trade is lucrative.
The more the security forces attempt to stamp out production, the more attractive the trade becomes, according to Zarar Ahmad Muqbel Osmani, the Afghan Minister of Counter Narcotics.
Opium represents 15% of the Afghan economy. Drug barons sustain insurgents in the region. Afghanistan is responsible for 90% of the world’s opium, from which heroin is made.
As prices rise, Osmani anticipates more violence as efforts to sustain the trade intensify.
The Afghan poppy crop is also plagued by a fungus that further diminishes the opium yield and pushes up prices.
Low seizure rates in neighbouring countries (between 3 and 9 percent) encourage the trade.
The biggest consumer country is Russia, which supports Afghan eradication measures. The US opposes them.
Foreign troops are set to leave the region in 2014, taking their money and airpower with them. Eradication policies will then likely become more difficult to enforce.