UK statement on the UNODC 2008 opium survey for Afghanistan
FCO Minister Lord Malloch-Brown today commented on the release of the United Nations Office on Drugs (UNODC) 2008 Opium Survey for Afghanistan. Lord Malloch-Brown said:
"The UK government welcomes the publication of the UNODC's 2008 Afghanistan Opium Survey, and the news that opium production has decreased. The Afghan Government and the UNODC estimate that 157,000 hectares were cultivated in 2008 - a 19% reduction on last years figure.
"This shows that the Afghan Government's Drug Control Strategy is starting to pay dividends. As security and governance improve across the country, more areas are becoming poppy free. The number of provinces free from poppy has increased from just 3 in 2004, to 13 in 2007, to 18 in 2008. This represents over half the provinces in the country. These improvements are helping farmers get licit goods to markets. With stronger governance, the state can enforce the law.
"However, there is no room for complacency. Afghanistan is still the world's biggest supplier of heroin. High cultivation levels are concentrated in the unstable South, where we are working with the Government of Afghanistan, local Governors, and international partners to build security and governance. This year, over 95% of poppy cultivation occurred in just five insecure provinces in the South. In Helmand, 103,000 hectares were cultivated, which is roughly the same as last year. However, the Governor of Helmand's new counter narcotics strategy demonstrates strong engagement at the political level, and this is a positive step.
"We urge the international community to provide support to Afghanistan. Led by the Afghan Government, the UK is providing significant funds to improve farmers' livelihoods, to bring traffickers to justice, to break the links between the drugs trade and the insurgency, and to reduce the demand for drugs. The UK spent £290m between 2005 and 2008. In Helmand, the Department for International Development is providing £2m aid to farmers in the form of wheat, seed, fertilizer and expert advice, to persuade farmers to turn away from poppy in the planting season this autumn, with the extra benefit of growing cereals to ease the food crisis in Afghanistan.
"Following decades of conflict which destroyed government institutions, it will take a long time for Afghanistan to be in a position to run a self-sustaining legal economy, police force, justice system and public services. We are in this for the long haul."
Downing Street (West),
London SW1A 2AL
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