Farmers returning to opium cultivation | world | Hindustan Times
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Farmers returning to opium cultivation

Many farmers in Nangahar and Jalalabad areas have turned back to opium cultivation because it guarantees them maximum returns.

world Updated: Dec 31, 2005 13:05 IST

For three years Gulam Gul has been growing wheat, rice, radishes and cauliflower—anything but the opium that his family once depended on.

The work is hard and his income too low to support his 13 dependents, and he is planning a career change—to merchant in a bazaar.

"When I was growing opium, for one season I was earning 200,000 rupees (3,345 dollars). Now I get 60,000 rupees for one season," Gul says in his field on the outskirts of Jalalabad, where the Pakistani rupee is commonly used.

He and other farmers ripped up their opium poppies because the government ordered a halt to Afghanistan's huge production of illicit opium, which makes up more than 85 per cent of the world's total and is used to make heroin.

In eastern Nangahar, of which Jalalabad is the capital, the order was particularly successful with a more than 95 per cent reduction in the poppy cultivation this year.

The province was the second largest producer in 2004.

But many Nangahar farmers, especially those in remote, mountainous areas, have turned back to the lucrative crop this planting season which began a few weeks ago, says former agriculture minister Sayed Aziz Zaheer, who oversaw the drop in output.

"I know people have already planted in the far districts. Between 40 to 50 per cent of them are in mountainous areas -- it's far away where people cannot see it," he says.