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Afghanistan: Fungus Afflicts Poppy Crop, Farmers Blame US, NATO

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #632)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues

Opium production in Afghanistan could be reduced by as much as a quarter this year because a fungal disease is afflicting the crop, UN Office on Drugs and Crime head Antonio Maria Costa told the BBC Wednesday. Farmers are quick to point the finger at the US and NATO, although evidence that the disease is anything but a natural phenomenon is lacking.

anti-opium posters, Nejat Center, Kabul
Costa said the fungus may have infected half the country's poppy crop. He added that opium prices had increased by about 50% in the areas affected.

Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the world's illicit opium. Increasing prices could mean increased revenues for Taliban insurgents, Costa suggested. The Taliban is sitting on large stockpiles of opium left from record levels of production in the last few years.

The fungus is appearing primarily in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the heartland of both the Taliban and current Afghan opium production. US and NATO forces are about to launch major offensives in the area to try to clear and secure it. In a bid to win popular support in the region, the US has backed away from previously supported eradication campaigns, choosing instead to target drug traffickers linked to the insurgents. In the Bush administration, some officials had argued for the use of aerial spraying of herbicides, but that was rejected.

Still, some farmers think the US and NATO are poisoning their crops. Farmer Haji Mohammad in Nawzad told the BBC that he had seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of opium he was able to harvest. He described the fungus as an "aerial spray." He said his poppy harvest had shrunk 990 pounds last year to nine pounds this year.

"[It]... has affected my wheat cultivation and my chickens and other animals as well," he said. "The powder sprayed has a white color and I think it is chemical and if you squeeze it in your hand, water comes out of it."

Other farmers in the region also said they had seen a white substance on their crops. They, too, reported extensive crop damage and that livestock had been affected.

But Costa denied that the West was using biological warfare in Afghanistan. "I don't see any reasons to believe something of that sort," he said. "Opium plants have been affected in Afghanistan on a periodic basis."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


maxwood (not verified)

Accident or not, this poppycrock causing a new wave of accusations against the US should teach us the seek other alternatives-- such as sending technical Advisors to help the farmers switch from poppy to CANNABIS which they used to do a good job with years ago. In fact, in Berlin, there was an excellent grade of black hashish with white mold on the outside known locally as "Schimmel-Afghan".

Instead of hashish, which is basically obsolete as soon as cannabis is legalized because it will no longer be necessary to press the kief into (harder to light) bricks for storage and shipping,

a. Show them how to screen-sift the herb down into 1/16th-inch screened "regular" for 25-mg. single tokes and 1/32" screened "kief" for 10-mg. high-THC nano-tokes (as served in a vaporizer or long drawtube one-hitter). A company in the suburbs of LA manufactures "LA-cons", hinged-lid airtight polyethylene containers in which sifted, ready-to-toke herb can be marketed a gram at a time.

b. Develop the technology (referred to on some websites as a "tincture") for inserting THC or blended cannabinoids, whatever is appropriate, into E-Cigarette cartridges. This may require a different type of heating element than presently used with nicotine-based carts.

This marketing strategy will get the Afghan economy on its feet and they'll thank Americans for the initial help.

Industrial and reforestation hemp:

In exchange for the high-end Inspirational product mentioned above, America can ship the Afghans something we have megatons too much of: biofuels (referred to by President Bush as "kindling" in 2007) in the form of dead brush, stubble, twigs &c. on the drought-stricken hills of Southern California and elsewhere. Ship thousands of containerloads of this material to Afghanistan where they can deposit it in ravines, gullies, seasonally dry streambeds, where it will trap some water that now runs off. Then drop millions of fast-growing invasive plant seeds, especially cannabis, into the mounds of such material, producing green fingers of reforestation starting with the ravines and spreading over the entire country until by 2055 Afghanistan has tropical rainforest, 555,000 orangutans living in the wild and an exuberant economy.

Sat, 05/15/2010 - 4:36pm Permalink
McD (not verified)

In reply to by maxwood (not verified)

A couple of points about your opinions:

Hashish will never be obsolete, because so many people love it. However many times you post the same information about long-stemmed one-hitters, etc. to be realistic you're not going to change people's preferences. True, vaporisation is becoming more popular and that's a good thing, but there are still a lot of people who simply love smoke. True, smoking any vegetable matter can't be good for you, but cannabis and tobacco are quite different animals. Sometimes, it seems, you forget that. In fact, although you may believe the more times someone reads it the more likely s/he is to do something about it, the fact is that seeing the same old drivel time after time is probably more likely to put people off the idea.

Whatever is said or done about or in Afghanistan, only one thing is certain: they'll never thank Americans, or their bully allies, for anything. They may take advantage of the situation to change and improve some things, but in the same way they didn't and don't thank the Soviets, they haven't and won't thank the US/UN/UK Axis either. The sycophantic grovelling of puppet governments doesn't count.

Actually, that's not 100% true: I studied in Leningrad just before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There was an Afghani girl in the hostel there who told me how grateful she had been for the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, because when they were there she was able to do a lot of things she couldn't do when they weren't, like not wear a veil on the street, come to Leningrad to study, get a job, put off getting married, etc... So, it would seem George W. Bush and his wife weren't the first to show concern for the plight of Afghani women. Whether or not there will be any difference to the Afghanis about the presence and/or colour of their occupiers (if there is any difference)... That's a whole nother story.

Fri, 05/21/2010 - 2:14pm Permalink
McD (not verified)

In reply to by maxwood (not verified)

Your ideas are sound, though. I really like the reforestation one, which I've seen on this board in several different forms. If only someone could have got just some of the resources squandered on military spending diverted to a programme like this... Yes, I believe you're right - it might have made a difference. (Well, at least it could have done if the Axis hadn't done such an effective job of making their suggestions untenable to the local population.) It might work for the Taleban once they're up and running openly again, which surely can't be very much longer now.

As for one hitters... Well, yes and no - I'm too old for that now - a bit like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. Some kids might pick up on it, if you'd stop going on about it, though.

Fri, 05/21/2010 - 2:31pm Permalink

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