Narcotics: US-Bin Laden duel and the price of heroin

The western world is about to be flooded with a tidal wave of cheap heroin as stocks are sold off in Afghanistan, the world’s greatest supplier. The instability generated by the present conflict should create conditions for the continued easy supply of opium.

A kilo of opium now sells in Afghanistan for around 250 USD, one third of the price of two months ago, as stocks are being sold off due to the instability in the region. Record crops were recorded in 1999 and 2000, of 4,500 and 3,200 tons, respectively. According to the United Nations, recent legislation introduced by the Taliban banning the planting of the opium poppy has seen production slump to 185 tons this year.

With 10 kg. of opium seed needed to make one kilo of heroin, Myanmar (formerly Burma) is set to leap-frog Afghanistan as the world’s top producer next year. This country averaged around 1,000 tons of opium per year in the 1990s, but Rangoon has also been pursuing a more aggressive anti-narcotics policy since 1996.

According to Sandeep Chawla, UN Drugs Control Programme Chief Coordinator, the instability in the area created by the ousting of the Taleban regime should be favourable to renewed planting of the crop next October.

Opium formerly earned Afghanistan warlords 150 million USD per annum, and with many of the country’s assets frozen abroad, it will be an easy source of income, especially when it is taken into consideration that this is one of the few crops which grows easily in Afghanistan’s inhospitable terrain.


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