Opium Price Hike Could Spur Afghan Violence
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As security forces in Afghanistan step up their efforts to eliminate opium from the country and a fungus ravages the poppies that yield it, the price of opium is set to skyrocket and could lead to violence in the country. Zarar Ahmad Muqbel Osmani, the Minister of Counter Narcotics, said the increased demand for opium throughout the region and decreased supply will not only make entering the poppy trade more appealing to desperate and cash-strapped farmers, but will also force the government to further ramp up their already intensified efforts to eradicate opium. "The price hike will definitely pressure us a lot," said Osmani. "The tendency towards cultivation will grow, it will create resistance, law and order issues, and it will raise the casualty rate (for the Afghan security forces)." Afghanistan produces 90% of the world's opium, and tons of it is shipped through Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia annually—with less than 10% of it seized by authorities in these areas. The poppy trade has earned insurgents more than $100 million a year, and traffickers billions more. According to the UN, the farm-gate value of opium production more than doubled in 2011 from the previous year to $1.4 billion and now accounts for 15% of Afghanistan's economy. Although there's a foreign-funded push to wean farmers off poppy through incentives like subsidies legal crops and fertilizer to grow legal crops, the effort has been largely unsuccessful.