Taliban leaders, seeking international acceptance after taking power in Afghanistan, have told farmers to stop cultivating opium poppy, according to residents of some major poppy-producing areas. This caused the prices of raw opium to skyrocket across the country.
In recent days, representatives of the Taliban have started telling gatherings of villagers in the southern province of Kandahar, one of the country’s main opium-producing regions, that this crop, a crucial part of the local economy, would henceforth be prohibited.
This follows a statement by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid at an Aug. 18 press conference in Kabul that the country’s new rulers will not allow the drug trade. Mr. Mujahid at the time did not provide details on how the Islamist group intends to enforce the ban.
Local farmers in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Helman provinces said raw opium prices had tripled from around $ 70 to around $ 200 per kilogram, due to uncertainty over future production. In the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif, the price of opium has doubled, residents said. Raw opium is turned into heroin.
The Taliban have long been a major beneficiary of the narcotics industry, using the taxation of the drug trade to fund their 20-year insurgency, according to Western governments. Afghanistan accounts for about 80% of the world’s illicit opiate exports, and the poppy planting season begins in about a month.