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
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before