Tajikistan sees decline in Afghan drug volumes

  • Reuters, DUSHANBE
  • |
  • Updated: Jul 30, 2010 10:45 IST

Tajikistan expects a decline in the volume of drugs trafficked from neighbouring Afghanistan this year due to more effective policing and the fungus that has attacked the opium poppy crop, an official said on Wednesday.

Khalimdzhon Makhmudov, who heads the operations and search department at Tajikistan's Drug Control Agency, said the Central Asian state had seized 2 tonnes of drugs in the first six months of 2010, nearly a third less than in the same period of 2009.

Heroin accounted for more than a quarter of the drugs seized between January and June, or 540 kg, he told a news conference.

Tajikistan, the poorest of five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, shares a porous, 1,340km (840mile) border with Afghanistan and has long been a haven for drug smuggling to Russia and onward to lucrative Western European markets.

Makhmudov said his agency expected a decline of around 25% this year in the flow of drugs from Afghanistan which produces most of the world's opium, a thick paste processed to make heroin through Tajikistan.

"Growing demand for drugs in Afghanistan itself, as well as the reinforcement by Afghan law enforcement agencies of their battle with drug production and damage to the opium poppy crop caused by fungus are the main reasons for the decline," he said.

The United Nations said in June that Afghanistan now rivalled Iran for the highest rates of addiction to opium and derivatives such as heroin.

A mysterious blight in the Afghan poppy fields could potentially halve opium output this year, but also runs the risk of pushing up prices and making poppy cultivation more attractive for local farmers.

Tajikistan says it seizes about two thirds of drugs passing through its territory, but some Western diplomats are sceptical, saying the number is closer to as low as 10%.

The country's drug control chief said in an interview in January that Afghan drug lords, pushed south by a return to relative stability in northern Afghanistan, were smuggling more heroin through Iran to Europe.

Tajikistan, which the International Crisis Group said last year was on the road to "failed state status", has also come under pressure from Western governments to combat smuggling.


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