Opium cultivation will end soon: Afghan minister

March 5th, 2008 - 5:46 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) On the day the UN said 193,000 hectares in Afghanistan were under illegal opium poppy cultivation in 2007 and the figure had doubled since 2005, Afghanistan’s visiting Agriculture Minister Obaidullah Ramin promised the eradication of the crop by next year. Afghanistan supplies about 93 percent of the illicit opiates in the global market, the International Narcotics Control Board said in its 2007 report released here Wednesday.

The same day here, Ramin told IANS: “Though banned, poppy cultivation is a major challenge before us. By next year our government should be able to ensure its complete ban.”

The Afghan government is creating alternative livelihoods for opium poppy farmers and has allocated $383 million for this during the current fiscal year.

“Agriculture is showing overall improvement after being in a shambles for decades,” Ramin said on the sidelines of a conference here - Science-based Agricultural Transformation towards Alleviation of Hunger and Poverty in SAARC countries.

“Food security is a core concern for us. Over 85 percent people depend upon agriculture. We are determined to be self-sufficient in food grains at the earliest and are initiating massive plans for increasing food productivity,” Ramin said.

Talking about opium poppy cultivation, he informed: “It is completely banned in 13 provinces. There was no resistance from any social group except in some parts of the southwest.”

Lauding the efforts of India in helping Afghanistan to emerge as a self-reliant nation, Ramin said: “Help from India is of manifold importance. It is playing a key role in building a new Afghanistan”.

Ramin felt that India had a bigger role in ensuring food security among the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) countries.

“SAARC nations should work together to achieve the goal of food security,” he added.

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