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HomeWorld‘All that glitters is opium’ – the menace of heroin under Taliban

‘All that glitters is opium’ – the menace of heroin under Taliban

Afghanistan responsible for 80 percent of global opium yield used to produce heroin for international markets

The spread of opium out of Afghanistan, which is Taliban’s version of the gold trade, has become a lurking threat for India after close to 3,000 kilograms of heroin was seized from the port of Mundhra in Gujarat this week.

According to Firstpost, a foreign intelligence agency seized the massive amount of heroin worth up to $2.9 billion, which they claimed came from Afghanistan, with the eventual destination thought to be either Europe or Australia. Similar seizures were reported globally since 2020, with a hefty 23,200 kilograms captured from shipping containers in Antwerp and Hamburg in recent months.

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Moreover, 600 kilograms was seized in Sri Lanka, another 1,452 from Romania and 400 kilograms from Kosovo fell to the authorities. The Firstpost also noted that naval ships in the Persian Gulf like the Canadian frigate ‘Calgary’ were actively involved in capturing the drug in the open waters.

Behind a lot of this drug dissemination activity stands Afghanistan, which has been producing 80 percent of the world’s opium recently, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).

Opium crop’s farming increased by 31 per cent to 224,000 hectares between 2019 and 2020. Afghanistan’s war torn and drought struck economy pushed more farmers to enter poppy farming, which is the plant from which opium is extracted and later turned into heroin. Last year, Afghanistan’s opium production was over 6,000 tonnes, which yields roughly 600 tonnes of heroin. Despite trade being hampered by the pandemic, the Taliban minimized losses through taxes and tithes on opium operations.

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The Taliban’s involvement in the drug trade dates to 1997, when they fallaciously claimed they would get rid of the drug menace. The crop’s yield instead increased by 2,330 metric tonnes between 1996 and 1999, with 97 percent of the yield pumped from Taliban controlled areas in Afghanistan. In 2000, the Taliban moved to end cultivation and drastically reduced production from 82,000 to 8000 hectares, all the while gripping onto stockpiles that caused heroin’s market price to soar. Between 2006 and 2007, the Taliban controlled opium trade in areas like Musa Qala, which they held on to in the middle of the US occupation.

The media outlet also noted that the recent seizures have done little to curb drug abuse as two-thirds of the world’s heroin shipments still find their way to consumers. With Afghanistan ravaged by a recent war and with the Taliban rising to power, the opium trade and the lure of raking in profits through drug cartels could likely reign in a new wave of drug-related crimes in the region’s countries.

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