"By selling wheat seeds and fruit saplings to farmers at token prices, offering cheap credit, and paying poppy-farm laborers to work on roads and irrigation ditches, U.S. and British officials hope to provide alternatives before the planting season begins in early October. Many poppy farmers survive Afghanistan's harsh winters on loans advanced by drug traffickers and their associates, repaid with the spring harvest.
"We need a way to get money in [farmers'] hands right away," said a senior U.S. military official in Afghanistan.
The program replaces the Bush administration's focus on crop eradication, which "wasted hundreds of millions of dollars," according to Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Destroying the crops succeeded only in "alienat[ing] poor farmers" and "driving people into the hands of the Taliban," he told reporters last week.
But many previous U.S.-funded crop-substitution programs have failed as well, from Asia to Latin America. A similar plan in Colombia, begun in the late 1990s, has barely made a dent in the level of cocaine production, although the country began to stabilize in recent years as its U.S.-trained military adopted new strategies against armed insurgents and civil institutions were strengthened.
Officials maintain that the new Afghan plan differs from unsuccessful "alternative" plans because it is an integral part of a military-development strategy that includes tens of thousands of U.S. troops to keep the Taliban and traffickers at bay while Afghan security forces are being trained. Plans call for hundreds of U.S. and international aid experts to work directly with farmers and local officials until the Afghan government has matured. " Washpost
We should not be in the business of re-structuring and reforming Afghanistan, but if we are going to try to do that, then attempts like this are inevitable.
It seems to me that there are too many moving parts in this scheme. "selling wheat seeds and fruit saplings to farmers at token prices, offering cheap credit, and paying poppy-farm laborers to work on roads and irrigation ditches," etc. The more complicated you make things like ths, the more likely it is that there will be unforeseen consequences.
Why not do what I suggested before and simply buy the crop at the farmyard gate. The prices that the farmers get are quite low and this would not cost a lot. It would also have the joyous side effect of financial ruin for a lot of Afghans who vaguely remind me of people like Walid Jumblatt in Lebanon.
Ah! I suppose that the puritan heart of America would recoil in horror from encouraging these farmers in their production of this "sinful" crop. Of course! I should have thought of that! pl
It should become the partiotic duty of every American, Canadian, Australian, Japanese, Korean and European to eat a large daily slice of Makowiec or Schlesischer Mohnkuchen. A billion slices a day and Afghanistan would soon become a “developed” country able to afford a large standing army!
I agree with you, buy the crop and then destroy it. I have also throught we should legalize pot and tax it heavily, thus taking some power away from the drug cartels and giving us needed tax money. But I don’t think either will happen any time soon.
Buy the opium and then destroy it? Might have the effect of raising prices, and cutting out the middle men may be a problem…
Who could we trust to buy the opium in the first place?
Then we’d get into a bidding war for the harvest with the drug traffickers. And as the price escalated more farmers would get in the game, increasing the supply, then—who knows? Perhaps we’d make capitalists of them all. What should be do with the harvest when we won the bidding, burn it, plow it under, sell it? To whom, the Taliban, the drug traffickers? All farcical of course. It wouldn’t stay simple, and like you say, when it gets complex —.
in another time, plong ago, pirates could be dealt with by naval and marine forces
the geo-political dilemma of our age seems to “failed states”
i don’t know if we can ignore the afghanistan “failed state” problem
i think your idea of buying the opium crop would be a game changer
it would upset the power equilibrium in afghanistan and possilby pakistan and could even provide a line of dialog with iran
it could strengthen efforts to help turn the farmers away from opium cultivation
more importantly it would strike a severe blow to the warlords, drug dealers, and government officials that thrive on opium profits
wikipedia has a review of opium production in afghanistan
i have cut, pasted and edited some sailient factoids from the wiki:
Afghanistan ranks number 173 of 177 countries, using a human development index, near or at the bottom of virtually every development indicator including nutrition, infant mortality, life expectancy, and literacy
the high rate of return on investment from opium poppy cultivation has driven an agricultural shift in Afghanistan from growing traditional crops to growing opium poppy
opium cultivation, at the present scale, is not traditional
Agriculture is a way of life for 70 percent of Afghans and is the country’s primary source of income
Afghanistan used to produce enough food to feed its people as well as supply a surplus for export
As the Afghan government began to lose control of provinces during the Soviet invasion of 1979-80, warlords flourished and with it opium production as regional commanders searched for ways to generate money to purchase weapons
In the seven years (1994-2000) prior to a Taliban opium ban, the Afghan farmers’ share of gross income from opium was divided among 200,000 families
In July 2000, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar declared that growing poppies was un-Islamic, resulting in one of the world’s most successful anti-drug campaigns
opium poppy cultivation was reduced by 91%
the ban was so effective that Helmand Province, which had accounted for more than half, recorded no poppy cultivation during the 2001 season
Opium production has been a significant business in Afghanistan, especially since the downfall of the Taliban in 2001
more opium poppy cultivation in each of the past growing seasons, than in any one year during Taliban rule
more land is now used for opium in Afghanistan, than for coca cultivation in Latin America
In 2007, 93% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan
export value of about $4 billion, with a quarter being earned by opium farmers and the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords and drug traffickers
some assert that opium production is protected by the government of Hamid Karzai as well as by the Taliban, as all parties to political conflict in Afghanistan as well as criminals benefit from opium production
record 2.9 million Afghanis from 28 of 34 provinces are involved in opium cultivation in some way, nearly 10 percent of the population
less than 20 percent of the $3 billion in opium profits actually goes to impoverished farmers
80 percent goes into the pockets of Afghan’s opium traffickers and kingpins and their political connections
Even heftier profits are generated outside of Afghanistan by international drug traffickers and dealers
60 percent of Afghanistan’s opium is trafficked across Iran’s border (much of it in transit to Europe).
Iran has the world’s highest per capita number of opium addicts
Iran’s “primary approach to the narcotics threat [as] interdiction.
Iran shares a 936 kilometer border with Afghanistan and a 909 kilometer border with Pakistan
The Iranian government has set up static defenses along this border. This includes concrete dams, berms, trenches, and minefields
Opium represents somewhere around 40-60% of Afghanistan’s economy. That means that if we were to undertake something like this – even in a more cost-effective way like the Colonel proposes – we would be directly purchasing at least half of a country’s gross national product.
This only makes sense if we resell it to heroin addicts. Personally, I think an intellectual case could be made for that on harm reduction grounds, but its obviously a non starter.
The point is that, like other things regarding current AF-PAK policy, if we take things to their logical conclusions it leads to conclusions a lot of people will find tremendously uncomfortable.
Just buy their Opium crop at 10% ‘above’ what the traffickers are paying them. The traffickers can’t stand competition, as it drives them out of the business. Why do you think there are constant ‘wars’ between traffickers. Buy their Opium in the morning, and put it in a burn pile that afternoon. Even that is ‘cheap’ when one considers the costs of the ‘war on drugs’ price tag. Lessening the boondoggle makes sense.
Actually the National Defense Stockpile contains balls of raw opium stockpiled for morphine production to assist in pain killing the wounded after Soviet execution of its SIOP on the US. Last I heard the largest such stockpile on Earth. Stored in the form of round balls.
you are not thinking assymetrically.
“in India, in 2000, the price for licit opium was US$13–29 per kilo, but for illicit US$155–206.” WIKI on “Afghanistan opium production.”
What do Afghan farmers get now for the poppy juice or whatever it is that they sell to the traffickers?
50% of Afghanistan’s GDP? So what! What are we going to be spending there over the next X number of years. pl
Kandahar peaches are among the best in the world, know throughout the Islamic world as worth paying a premium. So to encourage diversification, why not simple pay opium prices for the peach crop and other crops as an incentive. I know it won’t make the people in South Carolina and Georgia happy, but worth a try. If you encourage more production of opium, you will simply drive up the price paid by the drug dealers who have a monopoly. That is how software companies have over 50% margins. The more choices Afghan farmers have, the better results we will get. Try dealing with Cisco, Microsoft or Oracle about licensing fees compared to Intels battle with AMD…IMHO
The price of opiate-based painkillers (eg morphine) is currently high enough that in poor countries there are many medical uses than can’t be afforded. If we were to buy the crop, convert it to morphine, and sell it on the market, we’d push the price down (a good thing) and get some of our costs back. As far as cost goes, I think the current cost of the “mission” already exceeds the GDP of Afghanistan.
On a more general front, I can’t resist quoting from an interview with Rory Stewart (who has very direct knowledge of both Afghanistan and Iraq) on advising Washington. He seems to be another member of the Axis of Common Sense:
“It’s like they’re coming in and saying to you, ‘I’m going to drive my car off a cliff. Should I or should I not wear a seatbelt?’ And you say, ‘I don’t think you should drive your car off the cliff.’ And they say, ‘No, no, that bit’s already been decided – the question is whether to wear a seatbelt.’ And you say, ‘Well, you might as well wear a seatbelt.’ And then they say, ‘We’ve consulted with policy expert Rory Stewart and he says …’”
(google: rory stewart financial times for the full interview, though the rest is about other things).
The problem, Col., comes not from any lack of logic or information on your part but rather from the viewpoint expressed by a friend of mine with whom I was having dinner a month ago.
Discussing the Mexican drug cartels, I said unless we legalize narcotics, the problems in Mexico will spill over.
He said that that was fine, but people raising their children needed to keep narcotics illegal so they could keep them, too, from using drugs.
(You cannot expect this guy to be fully logical. He is a steel industry executive who sternly demands that we follow the free enterprise system when he is not demanding government support for the steel industry. )
He was quite set in his opinion and could make no inroads with him – at least until I finally pointed out that Mexican gangs already are in Columbus and therefore almost certainly using the local interstate.
That ended our conversation.
So, therefore, Col., I do not think your argument will work until or unless such time as it appears likely the Taliban may be cruising I-70.
It’s all about the children, you see.
Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance, and obviously someone who has some expertise in the area, discussed in a 2007 article the various options available to the US with regard to the opium produced in Afghanistan:
“One, we can keep doing what we’re doing, which is not accomplishing anybody’s objectives. Two, we could embark on an aggressive aerial eradication campaign, which would be a humanitarian disaster and push people into the hands of the Taliban……Three, there is outright legalization, but that isn’t on anybody’s political horizon….Four, there is the notion of just buying up the opium. That might work for a year or so, but it would almost inevitably become a sort of price support system with the country producing twice as much the following year. There’s no reason why farmers wouldn’t sell some to us and some to the underground; it would only inject another buyer into the market….Finally,.. there is the Senlis Council proposal to license opium production for the licit medicinal market… (It) is an interesting idea, but there are a lot of issues with it, including the question of whether there really is a global shortage of opiate pain medications……(There is another option)..Let’s just accept opium as a global commodity and let’s think of Afghanistan as the global equivalent of a local red light district”.
The article is quoted in: http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/500/afghanistan_opium_production_record
It is hard to justify money spent abroad when there is so much suffering at home.
it’s not such a silly idea when you consider the global shortage of morphine at the moment …
I like the “just buy it” plan. There might be bizarre unintended consequences, but probably they’d be far less bizarre than an unworkable Rube Goldberg-like, crop-substitution program. And what do we do with what we’d buy? Haven’t worked out the details myself, but I sense that there’d be some way to combine it with “Cash for Clunkers.”
Buy the opium at the farmer’s gate? My, my, that would mean we would actually cut out the warlords and traffickers and thus actually remove the opium from the market. Imagine all the drug dealer’s in Europe and the US who would have no product to push? Why then the drug related crime would go down dramatically, as would the need for all those cops and prisons. Eventually we would have to fire a bunch of cops and close a bunch of prisons. I can’t believe you are against cops and prisons. BTW I believe the only ones to successfully curtail opium production in Afghanistan were the Taliban. http://news.pacificnews.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=d7cdb69dd4561d0dbbcf8c56569a940c
Twit, what if opium is 40-60% of Afghanistan’s economy? I recall my father relating a story about a briefing to the JCS on Vietnam in 64-65 that stated that North Vietnam was close to 80-90% of GDP on the war. Some bright young colonel pointed out that the 10% left over was more than had been spent on the people of the north in its entire history. That was one colonel the sergeant major never saw again. Cut out the middleman, the farmers owe no allegiance to those who’ve been ripping them off for generations.
A few points — organics are better than synthetics, whether butter, cotton, coca or opium. Full-bore legalization will raise revenues, cut the costs of policing & incarcerating those in the supply/use chain & generally make for better karma.
Won’t ever happen, of course, since the prohibitionists (dope lords, cops, prison moguls, etc.) as well as the $$ launderers (AKA banks) have too much to lose. Still, it’s the right thing to do (not that that was ever reason enough for the American people).
Rather than buying the Opium, wouldn’t it make more sense to overpay for some more legitimate other crop?
The presumption is that the Farmer doesn’t care what he grows, may even be troubled by growing opium, but if we buy his crop of Opium at a mark up from what he is being paid by the drug lords, he has a guaranteed market and every farmer who is NOT growing opium will be tomorrow.
Better to pay 2-3 times the market rate for Dates, or lemons or whatever they can grow there. In time, the price can be reeled in relative to the market, but at the Farms gate the price would be so low we might even break even.(Maybe subsidize pot, and then sell it here through the ABC/State Stores, drive the Mexican cartels outs of business in a day, and balance the budget in one feel swoop)
I don’t have a number, but I believe Afghan poppy farmers get paid a comparative amount as diamond miners in Sierra Leone.
To clarify my poor attempt at reducto ad absurdum, I think the idea to buy up opium is a good one, and if we were to do this, buying it directly from the farmers would be the most cost-effective way to do it. The benefits of this could be huge: On the development side, like you said, it would lessen the economic stranglehold warlords et al have on ‘regular’ Afghans, which in theory could provide an opening for eventually replacing opium crops with pomegranates or something else. It would also help separate the true believers in the Taliban from the rent-a-militants, and enable us to proceed from there.
But, taking this modest proposal to its logical conclusions, begs at least two questions and brings us back to where we started:
1. Can we follow through? Yes. Although one issue is that the farmers usually do not sell to the traffickers. To simplfy, as I understand it the peasants sell to whatever local chieftain controls their land and holds their debts, and then this chieftain – usually with the help of the friendly local Afghan government official or Taliban leader – sells it to the traffickers. So, if we want to buy from the farmers, we need to replace, undermine, or pay off everyone who would be negatively impacted, which would include a lot of our current Afghan ‘friends.’ Cue asymmetric warriors.
2. But is it worth following through? For example, we would still have to at least (a) identify most or all of the poppy farmers, (b) account for what they grow to ensure they are not holding back, (c) deal with or find and install replacements for all the power players whose major source of personal income we just undercut, and (d) provide security for the farmers who will inevitably be forced by the traffickers’ allies to sell some to us and most to them, or be killed. i.e. It matters if we are committing to buying outright 50% of the country’s GDP for the foreseeable future because doing so will require accompanying social/economic/political restructuring, unless we just want to kick the can down the road.
In other words, even though it sounds good in the short term, wouldn’t all this just entail an almost full-out COIN/nation building level of effort?
And, if we want to use opium to address at least the AF of ‘AF-PAK’ wouldn’t it more cost effective to just decriminalize heroin and work on getting some amoral yet tax-paying corporations in to control the trade and sell it to licensed and regulated dealers who will provide it to addicts as part of government controlled rehab programs?
Is it not the case that the opium economy is the most modern sector of Afghan economy?
And the money that it brings in is from more affluent consumers in Europe and North America?
Yes, it feeds the warlords and fuels corruption but it is not the cause of those ills.
In fact, those Afghans involved in the opium trade have been gaining valuable experience and know-how in marketing, international logistics, and modern farming techniques.
Seems to me, this sector of the Afghan society at least has joined the market economy and thus most likely to be able to enter into a semblance of “modernity” – over time.
Why should the United States, in the middle of this war – however misguided its strategic objectives might be – take on the drug sector?
The only people who are loudly complaining about the opium production in Afghanistan are the Iranians and they have been living with that headache for decades.
If I were a US leader, I would leave the opium production in Afghanistan alone.
I agree with Babak. we should ignore the Afghan opium trade if we can. After all, I am not really in favor of trying to create Afghanistan. Let the Afghans create their own country if they want one. “Nation State?” What a laugh.
McChrystal will be de-flavorised in Afghanistan as will Gates if he does not escape before the eventual debacle. COIN and its disciples will disappear into the mists. I say again. It only makes sense if you own the place.
Asymmetric warriors? God bless ’em. pl
Col. and Babak, last time we abandoned Afghanistan things didn’t go to well for us.
IMHO, there is no military option resulting in victory, but we can attempt to minimize our defeat.
Nation building should be left to the U.N. but Iraq and Afghanistan will our 51st and 52nd states for a long, time time.
I live in Miami, Haiti’s problems affect us more than you can imagine.
We can run, but we can not hide.
“Abandoned?” What are they, children? You are not paying attention. I want to stay in Afghanistan with just enough force to enable disruptive operations against AQ, operations using Afghans against them as the main muscle.
What I sm not in favor of is building the new Afghanistan. pl
It would be very tough to buy it at the “farm gate”.
Opium harvesting takes a lot of effort. Large groups of migrant farm workers help with the harvest (which only lasts for a six week season or so).
The farmer has to pay off the workers as they finish their harvest.
Creating an department of agriculture with many farm “agents” who could inspect and purchase the crop as the harvesters are walking out the gate would be an immense undertaking.
OK. Since it is really difficult and requires sensitvity to local econmics, society and the first peoples of Afghanstan, we should ask Canada to run the program. pl
Then we agree…lol
باز هم بدتر و گذراندن
I would like to suggest an alternative crop substitution program. Instead of those Afghan famers growing poppies, perhaps they could plant large amounts of ‘Kush’ or ‘White Widow’ instead. (it is my understanding that they have some experience with that type fo crop). Then, using the miracle of worldwide markets and globalisation, sell all of that excellent bud and hash to the citizens of the planet. In short order Afghanistan would become an economic powerhouse, the worldwide population would become so baked that no one would be interested in fighting anybody (spending all their time playing frisbee or interminably long bouts of hackysac). Why, the tax revenues alone (once made legal) would easily get the planet out of the economic/financial clusterfuck it finds itself in. I would like to think of it as my ‘Bong hits for freedom and prosperity plan.’
AKA SubKommander Dred
Even simpler. Today only Turkey and India are allowed under international convention to grow the poppy for legitimate pharmaceutical purposes. Expand that to include Afghanistan.
Look at this blurb, it would seem the US used to be much smarter:
“Turkey’s successful transition from a culture of widespread, unregulated poppy cultivation to a licensed, controlled system of poppy cultivation for the production of medicines provides an interesting model for Afghanistan. Analogous to the current situation in Afghanistan, in the 1960s Turkey was one of the world’s main opium producing countries. After several years of tense negotiations, political pragmatism prevailed, resulting in Turkey switching from unregulated crop growing to licensed poppy cultivation for the production of medicines. The Turkish political dynamic was such that poppy farmers’ interests were key to the stability of the country. When Turkey deemed total eradication both technically and socially impracticable, the US and the Turkish Governments worked together to implement a poppy licensing system for the production of opium-based medicines, as an alternative means of bringing poppy cultivation under control. Turkey was then able to resume poppy cultivation, under a strict licensing system supported by the United Nations and a preferential trade agreement with the US. ”
Actually if you look closely Gates only promised to stay on one more year.
According to this Sibel Edmonds article, looks like we’d be facing some stiff competition in purchasing the raw product from our allies the Turks.
You have to scroll down a bit to read the opium part.
“Selling wheat seeds and fruit saplings to farmers at token prices, offering cheap credit, and paying poppy-farm laborers to work on roads and irrigation ditches.” I once worked on a similar project–locals joked that the real goal was to put $20 million into the King’s Swiss bank account. What was supposed to have been my own means of transportation–a motorcycle–ended up as personal transportation for the local governor’s kids.
Buying opium is not new. The same method was used (and still is used) to solve the problem of Turkish opium production in 1960’s and quite successfully. (IIRC)
Col Lang and Babak,
OK, so I guess we all agree. Creating a new and improved Afghanistan is clearly not worth the cost, even if it’s possible. But, if we are going down that road (at least for a while), then, I believe, there are better ways to deal with the opium issue than just to ‘buy it up’ or ‘leave it alone.’
“worse again and passing”?
If enough people pushed loud, long, and hard enough for re-legalizing the illegalized drugs; re-legalization would be forced
onto the political horizon.
It is very tempting to take the cynical view that the laws against drugs and the “war on drugs” are elaborate international subsidy systems designed to maintain an artificial shortage of these drugs in order to keep their prices high. One might go so far as to wonder whether the whole “war on drugs” effort is really just government muscle used to suppress johhny-come-lately competition to the established drug cartels.
Full legalization of opium and marijuana would crash the price below the level where drug cartels would find it worth their while. And the multi-billion-dollar war-on-drugs industry would go out of bussiness. No wonder the cartels and the cops share a mutual interest in keeping these drugs illegal.
It reminds me of stories I used to hear about how in dry counties, whenever the issue of staying dry or not would come up for a vote; preachers and bootleggers would put on their cars the bumper sticker: “Vote Dry for the sake of my children”.
But in the meantime…if we want to buy the Afghan opium crop out of existence; the best way to do it would be to pay opium prices for non-opium crops. That would incent the opium farmers to farm non-opium. But we would be stuck paying $100 a peach till the end of time, or until we make opium-gardens legal in our own countries.
And why wouldn’t Russia and the Central Asiastans want to help in suppressing al Quaeda in Afghanistan? They too feel threatened by “jihadism”. Perhaps we could negotiate an orderly handover-of-influence in Afghanistan to a coalition of Russia, China, India, and the Central Asiastans; all of whom share an interest in suppressing “jihadism”. In essence, the Afghan government could become a Shanghai Co-operation Council protectorate. America could retreat from playing the Great Game in Asia and begin the Great Work of reparing and restoring broken economic and social systems in America.
Ael, perhaps you are correct that buying the crop would be “an immense undertaking”, but our current efforts at nation-building appear far more immense.
I have mixed feelings about any US opium purchase program. It sounds as rational as can be, and would probably be far, far more effective than our current policy of crop-substitution.
At the same time, reason would also dictate that every farmer in Afghanistan would quickly switch over to opium.
The idea of paying the date and lemon farmers above market prices for their products is intriguing.
During WWII the US Gov’t had a very difficult time buying electric motors at the going rate. The buying agency begged and pleaded for US manufacturers to show their patriotism and support the troops by making electric motors. The pleas fell on deaf ears. Then one wise wag decided to triple the price. The result, no more shortage of electric motors.
If we want to wean the Afgan farmer off poppy growing, pay him lavishly for anything but.
There are two issues:
The latter is more on my screen as a problem involving transnational crime and terrorism. The former is a traditional thing in the region.
Per opium, the US for decades has maintained a strategic stockpile (for war mobilization and other purposes) of various commodities ranging from minerals and metals to….opium for making pharmaceutical drugs.
This is a summary of the background of this stockpile. One can immediately note that stockpile management is a complex issue and subject to political pressure and “vested interests” in the private sector:
No reason that Afghan opium could not go into this stockpile under lock and key.
Buying up the Afghan opium crop at a premium would be a great idea if we thought we could trust our own agents to either warehouse or destroy the excess. The history of our clandestine services suffering internal corruption with narcotic crops being illicitly imported into the US by the same agencies entrusted with protecting the nation is not encouraging. How do we make sure another collapse like we experienced during the Vietnam War or our under the radar activities in Central America doesn’t occur again? Too many of the folks who might be involved in the program feel they are beyond review and control, which is not encouraging.
“another collapse like we experienced during the Vietnam War”
What collapse are you referring to? pl
You are so right, and so are your commenters.
We could buy those poppies and produce drugs cheaply to help our our own health care crisis and provide a market and economic support to afghans… such a beautifully and simple solution.
But the opium is really the snake oil.
It’s a Neoliberal orwellian named project.
It’s not about nation building, its about nation looting, and secondly it would create direct competition for the spoils of war for those highwaymen we hire.
These elites don’t give a crap about these poverty stricken afghans.
China is going to mine copper in Kabul Afghanistan – we are there to provide security with cheap american G.I. flesh, for the mine and during the railroad construction through taliban area of pakistan, another resource rich area which will be auctioned off tool
The World Bank is providing loans to develop Afghan mineral resources, as is evidenced by Aynak copper deposit and soon the Hajigak iron ore deposit.
According to the W.B. There are no oustanding social or human issues to be concerned with. – so that opium or the treatment of women isn’t really an issue.
In the UK at present, there is now quite significant licit opium production.
See for example: this local news coverage.
The locations are ‘secret’ to stop people stealing the crop… well, maybe the locations aren’t advertised, but take a look around Hampshire (where I live) and they’re really not hard to spot. Anyone who doesn’t believe that they are being stolen and sold illicitly in the UK is sorely mistaken.
Meanwhile, I heard a news report on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning about the successful eradication of opium crops in areas of Afghanistan where British military are present… well, good for us. We’re starving the Afghans while facilitating the illicit drug trade on our own shores. Incredible that the BBC can seemingly completely ignore this in their commentary.
As far as I can tell, there seems to be a belief that by not bringing too much attention to it with journalistic coverage or increased security presence around the actual crops, everything will somehow be ok.
In fact, Turkey & India are not the only countries growing opium for legitimate pharmaceutical purposes. There are poppy fields for this purpose in Tasmania, in Australia. Such small crops in areas more suited for growing fruit and vegetables. Smarter to buy from Afghanistan, I would think.