Opiumshøsten i Afghanistan var ifjor det doble av hva verden konsumerer. Det førte til fallende priser. Taliban sitter å enorme lagre av opium, i påvente av prisoppgang.
Krigsmotstandere liker å fremstille det som at det er Kabul-alliansen som dyrker opium, men faktum er at de nordlige og østlige provinser er opiumsfrie. De største avlingene finnes i Helmand og Kandahar, der Taliban står sterkt.
The Taleban is believed to be stockpiling vast quantities of opium after a bumper crop last year sent the price of the drug spiralling downwards.
The Taleban, which relies on sales of the drug for arms purchases, is hoping to hold onto its stock for long enough for the value to rise again, officials in Kabul said today.
A Western counter-narcotics official said opium from the harvested poppy crops was currently valued «as low as $50 a kilo».
Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said: «Last year Afghanistan produced about 8,000 tonnes of opium. The world in the last few years has consumed about 4,000 tonnes, so this leaves a surplus. It is stored somewhere and it’s not with the farmers.»
Mr Costa told BBC’s «File on 4» programme that the Taleban still managed to make about $100 million (£50 million) last year from the opium business, «charging poppy farmers ten per cent tax for their harvested crops».
Last year was a near-record poppy crop. This year’s harvest which finished in May is expected to produce a lower yield, although the final figure will not be published by UNODC until August.
The stored opium from last year’s above-average cultivation would be heavily protected, officials said. «The one thing the Taleban and the war lords controlling the opium will not be afraid of is arrest by the police, so they will just sit on the opium which can be kept for two years,» one counter-narcotics official said. The Taleban are known to take about one tenth of the opium harvested from the poppies.
Mr Costa also said that the insurgents made extra money from protecting the opium laboratories and providing armed escorts for the lorries carrying the opium over the Afghan border into Pakistan.