It's hardly news that Afghanistan's huge opium crops supply more than 90% of the world's heroin. But now U.N. officials say Afghanistan is also the world's biggest producer of another drug – hashish. In its first attempt to calculate how much cannabis is grown in the country, the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime says in a report released in Kabul on Wednesday that Afghan farmers earned up to $94 million last year from selling between 1,500 and 3,500 tons of hash – the resin extracted from cannabis crops.
U.S. and NATO officials believe that at least part of this revenue goes to insurgent groups to finance their attacks against coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, where almost all of the 139 soldiers killed this year have died. The report found that farmers grow about 17,000 hectares (about 42,000 acres) of cannabis in half of the country's 34 provinces – largely in the south. That is where Afghanistan's most fertile land is, the report says, and its rich soil produces an “astonishing yield” of potent hashish of about 320 pounds per hectare – more than three times the yield from cannabis grown in Morocco, another big hash producer. “Afghanistan is using some of its best land to grow cannabis,” says Antonia Maria Costa, director of the U.N. drug office in Vienna. “If they grew wheat instead, insurgents would not have money to buy weapons and the international community would not have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on food aid.” (See pictures of cannabis culture.)
- Afghanistan Cannabis Survey (Full report) (pdf)
Income from cannabis per ha (gross/net) US$ 3,900 / US$ 3,341
Income from opium per ha (gross/net) US$ 3,600 / US$ 2,005
Income from wheat per ha (gross/net) US$ 1,200 / US$ 960