UNODC Afghanistan Opium Survey 2012

The following report was released by the UNODC May 5, 2013.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Afghanistan Opium Survey 2012

  • 112 pages
  • May 2013


Afghanistan cultivates, produces and process narcotics that are a threat to the region and worldwide. However, the international community also needs to understand that Afghanistan itself is a victim of this phenomenon. The existence of hundreds of thousands of problem drug users, as well as decades of civil war, terrorism and instability are all related to the existence of narcotics in the country.

According to the findings of this survey, the total area under cultivation was estimated at 154,000 hectares, an 18 per cent increase from the previous year. Comparisons of the gross and net values with Afghan’s licit GDP for 2012 also serve to highlight the opium economy’s impact on the country. In 2012, net opium exports were worth some 10 per cent of licit GDP, while the farmgate value of the opium needed to produce those exports alone was equivalent to 4 per cent of licit GDP.

On the basis of shared responsibility and the special session of the United Nation’s General assembly in 1998, the international community needs to take a balanced approach by addressing both the supply and the demand side equally. In addition, more attention needs to be paid to reduce demand and the smuggling of precursors as well as provide further support to the Government of Afghanistan.

  • The total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2012 was estimated at 154,000 hectares, a 18% increase from the previous year.
  • The vast majority (95%) of opium cultivation took place in nine provinces in Afghanistan’s Southern and Western regions, which include the country’s most insecure provinces. In mirroring the polarization in the security situation between the lawless south and the relatively stable north of the country, this confirms the link between security and opium cultivation observed in previous years.
  • Hilmand remained Afghanistan’s major opium-cultivating province, followed by Farah, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Nimroz, Nangarhar, Badghis, Badakhshan, Kunar, Day Kundi, Hirat, Laghman, Zabul, Kapisa, Ghor and Kabul.
  • Opium cultivation increased in most of the main poppy-cultivating provinces, including in Hilmand itself (19%). However, relatively less poppy was cultivated inside the Hilmand “Food Zone”, where agricultural support programmes are implemented, than in the rest of the province.
  • Based on preliminary results from other countries, opium cultivation in Afghanistan represented 64% of global cultivation in 2012.
  • Total eradication of opium poppy increased by 154% in 2012 due to an increase in Governor-led eradication (GLE) in all regions, which accounted for 9,672 hectares.
  • Even though the area eradicated was the equivalent of less than 6.5 % of the total area under opium cultivation, with a total of 102 fatalities and 127 injured, the human cost of the eradication campaign was far higher in 2012 than in the preceding year.
  • Average opium yield amounted to 23.7 kilograms per hectare in 2012, which is 47% less than in 2011 (44.5 kilograms per hectare). This was due to a combination of a disease of the opium poppy and adverse weather conditions, particularly in the Eastern, Western and Southern regions of the country.
  • Potential opium production was estimated at 3,700 tons in 2012. While a 36% decrease from the previous year, based on preliminary results for some countries and regions, this figure represented 74% of global potential production.
  • The opium yield and production estimates of the years 2006 to 2009 were revised downward after a careful review revealed data quality problems which had led to an overestimation of the per-hectare yield.
  • Accounting for 69% of national production, the Southern region continued to produce the vast majority of opium in Afghanistan in 2012. The Western region was the country’s second most important opium-producing region, with 23% of national production.
  • At US$ 0.73 billion, or the equivalent of roughly 4% of the country’s estimated GDP, the farm-gate value of opium production in 2012 fell by 49%.
  • The gross export value of opium and heroin/morphine exports in 2012 was US$ 2.0 billion (US$ 2.6 billion in 2011). The net export value of Afghan opiates in 2012 was US$ 1.94 billion. Far smaller, the gross value of the domestic market for the drugs was estimated to be US$ 0.16 billion.
  • A comparison of these gross and net values with the licit 2012 GDP of Afghanistan (US$ 18.95 billion) shows the magnitude of the Afghan opium economy. In 2012, net opium exports were worth some 10% of licit GDP, while the farm-gate value of the opium needed to produce those exports alone was equivalent to 4% of licit GDP. The net value of the domestic market for opiates is small by comparison, but still worth approximately 1% of licit GDP.
  • On average, poppy-growing households in Afghanistan continue to have a higher cash income than households that do not grow poppy.
  • Between 2011 and 2012, per-hectare gross income from opium cultivation decreased by 57% to US$ 4,600, virtually the same level as in 2010. Farmers reported average expenditure corresponding to 28% of gross income, leading to a net income of US$ 3,300 per hectare.
  • In 2012, opium prices remained very high but decreased slightly in all regions of Afghanistan, though in the Eastern, Western and Southern regions, in particular, they showed signs of stabilization at a high level. There is thus a clear incentive for Afghan farmers to continue cultivating opium.
  • In general, opium-growing villages are situated significantly further from the nearest agricultural market than non-opium-growing villages, suggesting that market accessibility and farmers’ options for cultivating legitimate agricultural produce and to cultivate opium are issues that needs to be addressed.
  • The link between opium cultivation and lack of development is shown by the fact that while over 90% of non-poppy-growing villages have a boys’ school and almost three quarters a girls’ school, these proportions drop to 61% (boys’ school) and 19% (girls’ school) in poppy-growing villages. The possible negative long-term effect of having less access to education than their contemporaries, and the absence of schools for girls in over four fifths of poppy-growing villages in particular, is worrying.
  • Cannabis cultivation is closely related to poppy cultivation: 71% of poppy-growing villages reported cannabis cultivation in 2012, while only 2% of poppy-free villages reported it.

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