Afghan farmers reap cannabis harvest worth £61m

New UN report shows corruption is lubricating Afghanistan's latest lucrative drugs industry

Afghanistan, already the world's top opium supplier, is now the world's biggest producer of cannabis, according to United Nations drug experts.

There is large-scale cultivation of the drug in half of the country, resulting in 3,500 tons of hashish worth an estimated £61m annually, according to the first assessment of cannabis in Afghanistan by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. It warns that the threat from the drug needs to be dealt with to deny the Taliban the millions they make in protection taxes paid by farmers and drug smugglers.

The focus on opium has resulted in cannabis being overlooked, according to Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of UNODC. "A concentration of cultivation in the southern part of Afghanistan shows that the Taliban and those insurgents that control the southern parts of the country are not only funding themselves by trafficking opium but also by trafficking cannabis. It's the same area."

Sporadic government crackdowns have merely resulted in a shift in production to the south of the country, with most cannabis now grown in regions where the insurgency is at its strongest. There are close links with the heroin trade, with more than 67 per cent of cannabis farmers also growing opium, according to the report, which is based on a survey of more than 1,600 villages across the country. UN experts estimate that 60,000 households are now growing cannabis.

Although cheaper than opium, cannabis can potentially earn a farmer more because it yields twice the quantity of drug per hectare and is cheaper and less labour-intensive to cultivate. Farmers can earn £2,173 per hectare – more than the £1,304 they get from opium. But since cannabis has a short shelf life and is grown only in the summer, when there is less water available, they continue to cultivate opium as their main drug crop.

A British-backed paramilitary unit is hunting down Afghan drug lords as part of a new strategy against the drug trade. Four helicopters have already been provided by Britain for airborne assault missions by the Afghan Special Narcotics Force, with another two being made available to an Air Interdiction Unit this year. Targets are being drawn up by an Interagency Operations Co-ordination Centre in Kabul, led by officers from Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. But efforts are hampered by high levels of corruption and drug use among police, with 68 per cent testing positive for cannabis.

Slamming the Afghan government as "pretty rotten", Mr Costa added: "Corruption has been a major lubricant of the very prosperous drug industry... it's throughout the system."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
News
i100
Travel
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect