Feeds

Mystery fungus smacks Afghan opium poppies

Yields down, prices up

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Afghanistan's opium farmers are facing a lean harvest due to a mystery fungus which has seriously affected half of Papaver somniferum poppies in the country's Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

The infection "attacks the root of the plant, climbs up the stem and makes the opium capsule wither away", the BBC outlines. Some farmers suggest NATO troops have sprayed their crops with chemicals, but this was rejected by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) head Antonio Maria Costa.

He said: "I don't see any reasons to believe something of that sort. Opium plants have been affected in Afghanistan on a periodic basis."

Farmer Haji Mohammad in Nawzad, Helmand province, explained to the BBC that while last year he'd harvested 450kg of opium, this year he was reduced to a paltry 4kg. Overall, the harvest could fall by 25 per cent this year, according to Costa.

The upshot of the blight is a sharp rise in opium prices - up 50 per cent, following a 30 per cent fall in value over the last 12 months. This hike could "impact on revenues for insurgent groups like the Taliban", Costa noted, since they have large stashes of opium.

The 2009 harvest was 6,900 tonnes, in excess of world demand of 5,000 tonnes, with the surplus adding to an estimated 10,000 tonnes stockpile held by cartels "in an effort to push up prices", as AFP puts it. UNODC quantified this opium mountain as "equal to two years' supply of heroin for addicts, or three years of morphine for medical use".

Mr Costa concluded that the fungal disease represented "an opportunity for the international community to bring in support to try to persuade farmers to turn away from planting opium".

Afghanistan produces 92 per cent of the world's opium, valued at $3bn a year, and its cultivators view the valuable crop as "one sure way of safe-guarding against an insecure future". ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.