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Afghanistan, opium and the UN…

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The opium poppy supply is apparently infested with a serious disease of some sort which threatens the 2010 harvest. And? Well, this kind of news gets me to  wondering. Sure the BBC reports from an official at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mr. Antonio Maria Costa (why do UN officials always have 3 names?). Opium poppies have legal, medicinal and ornamental uses. Of course, heroin, opium, codeine and morphine are the prime derivatives. However, what gets me wondering is how the statistics for opium production are gathered.

At one time opium was a fairly common drug in the western world, but today it is mostly used in Asia while heroin continues to plague western society today. However after going to the UNODC site, this jumped out at me:

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is down 22 per cent, opium production is down 10 per cent, while prices are at a 10-year low (for 2009)


Mr Costa told the BBC that this year’s opium production could be reduced by a quarter, compared to last year’s yield… opium prices had gone up by around 50% in the region.

So like, who’s counting? The Taliban or the farmers? I guess I envision Afghanistan as a 3rd world Mexico (which would make it like 5th world as Mexico is a ‘developing country’). Does the western world receive its morphine and codeine from Afghan opium, thereby necessitating that an account of its yield be kept? Or does the UN have a sort of GAO office for the world which accounts for every substance known to man? I’m not surprised that prices have gone up in 2010 seeing as a war is raging over there. But wait, there’s more:

Opium poppy cultivation has fallen to 123,000 hectares, down from a peak of 193,000 hectares in 2007


in Helmand Province …cultivation declined by a third to 69,833 hectares from 103,590 hectares in 2008

Better stock up on the cough syrup folks before the prices go through the roof. First gas skyrocketed, and now our very health is compromised. My point is however, who’s counting? The numbers for the Helmand Province have the look of accuracy. The UNODC says that the world demand for opium remains at around 5000 tons (for some reason I have a strong urge to write ‘tonnes’). Does that take into account illicit drug use or just folks at flower shows displaying a vivid array of color and the distinct “exotic chocolate-vegetal fragrance” of the poppies?

Can you see what I am getting at? This guy sure does…


Poe had a noted appetite for the sweet poppy