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Volume 404: debated on Monday 28 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much opium (a) was produced by Afghanistan in (i) 2001 and (ii) 2002, (b) has been produced this year and (c) is predicted for 2004 on present trends.[108012]

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducts an annual survey into the level of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. This reported that 185 tonnes of opium was produced in 2001 and 3,400 tonnes in 2002.The UNODC is in the process of carrying out the 2003 survey. Its results will be published in the autumn. The 2004 survey is likely to start at the end of this year.In March 2003 the UNODC published an Opium Rapid Assessment Survey for Afghanistan. This gave an early insight into the pattern of opium poppy cultivation for the 2002–03 growing season, but did not predict the level of opium production for 2003 or beyond.The 2002 increase was no surprise. The Taliban's cultivation ban in 2001 was driven by short-term motives and inherently unsustainable. It was imposed with bribery and threats, including in some cases, death. It also did not cover trafficking, processing or stockpiling. Indeed the Taliban's profits from these activities grew as, after two bumper harvests, the ban drove up opium prices. Sustained reductions in cultivation will only follow from a long-term process to build up Afghan drug law enforcement and encourage alternative livelihoods for farmers.