News / Asia

UN: Afghanistan is World's Top Hashish Producer

Lisa Bryant

A new U.N. survey shows Afghanistan is not only the world's top opium producer, but it has surpassed Morocco in becoming the top global producer of hashish.  From Paris, our correspondent has more on the findings by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

The U.N. survey adds to international concern about Afghanistan's drug cultivation.  While Afghanistan is not the world's-largest producer of cannabis in terms of acreage, it tops the list when it comes to producing hashish from the crop.

Overall, the study by the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime found Afghan farmers produce between 1,500 and 3,500 tons of hashish per year.

Like opium, of which Afghanistan is also the world's top producer, cultivation of cannabis is largely concentrated in the more unstable south.  

UN drugs office spokesman Walter Kemp says there is some good news in the report, farmers in other parts of the country appear to be turning away from drug cultivation.

"We see generally throughout the country, farmers in areas not in the south of the country are turning to alternatives, because they know that growing these illicit crops is illegal," said Walter Kemp. "Slowly, slowly, development assistance is coming through.  The government and provincial governors are able to enforce the law better.  International forces are also having their impact."

Afghanistan's illegal drugs industry amounts to a $3-billion a year business controlled by gangs and militants.  The narcotics are smuggled through central Asian and Balkans routes and end up for sale in Russia, Western Europe and Asia.  

Kemp says there are also serious concerns about the level of drug addiction among the Afghan population.

"The indications are that it is a serious problem in terms of opium consumption and also cannabis," he said. "But we will only have the hard date in the next few months."

The U.N. office also has a message for the international community.

"We are saying to governments that you have a strong responsibility not only to improve the situation in Afghanistan, but to stop the addiction in your own countries, which is driving this whole drugs trade," said Kemp.

In other words, the United Nations says fighting drug production and trade goes hand in hand with fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan.  

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