The UK government has come up with a plan to combat the increase in opium coming from Afghanistan – they propose to pay Afghan farmers to grow something else.
The Afghanistan opium problem is getting steadily worse. Illegal Afghan opium was selling for as much as $125 per kilo in 2006. The UN said the area under cultivation rose this year from 165,000 to 193,000 hectares and the harvest rose from 6,100 to 8,200 tonnes.
Some influential figures have proposed really radical remedies. Lord Jay, the former Foreign Office permanent secretary, suggested that Afghani opium be legally produced and used to manufacture morphine for medical use. But his idea has been rejected. The pharmaceutical industry probably vetoed the idea, as an increase in the legal opium harvest would make it more difficult to justify the high price that is currently demanded for morphine.
Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown, who has recently returned from Afghanistan, announced to the House of Lords that The Department of International Development is considering the subsidised purchase of legal crops from Afghani farmers so they can make the kind of money that they get from raising poppies.
He stressed that the UK government is against the US policy of aerial spraying of poppy fields. That kind of action only alienates the Afghani farmers when winning their trust should be the priority.
It’s interesting that opium harvests in Afghanistan have been steadily increasing ever since the Taliban were overthrown. Before the war, the Taliban were strictly opposed to opium and heroin on religious grounds, and had been clamping down on the trade. So this situation is the fault of the UK and USA. President George Bush is encouraging the illegal production of heroin. No wonder he won two terms!
The British Army are doing their bit to encourage the illegal cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan.