Afghanistan’s cheap heroin to flood Britain
A flood of cheap heroin is on its way to Britain following a massive surge in opium production in Afghanistan, experts fear.
Since the war on terror and the fall of the Taliban, opium production is up by a staggering 1,400 per cent.
Ninety per cent of the heroin sold by drug dealers in Britain already comes from Afghanistan.
Drug experts have accused the Government, which is supposed to be leading the war against drugs in Afghanistan, of not doing enough to stop farmers planting thousands of acres of poppies, the plant from which opium and heroin are derived.
Under the Taliban, poppy cultivation was banned and opium production dropped to 185 tons last year.
UN inspectors are predicting that this year the harvest will be between 1,900 and 2,700 tons – a rise of up to 1,400 per cent in 12 months.
The figures will be presented to an international drug trafficking conference by Brian Taylor, chief of the supply reduction and law enforcement section of the UN Drug Control Programme.
Drug workers in Afghanistan have complained of a desperate lack of resources, intelligence and training to stop cultivation returning to the high levels of the 1990s.
Roger Howard, head of the charity DrugScope which is organising the conference, said: ‘If production continues like this in the future, we could be faced with more heroin on our streets and lower prices for it.
‘But simply banning production will not solve the problem. The international community must invest in Afghanistan to ensure that society and individuals have other options open to them other than the drugs trade.’
The Taliban banned production of the opium poppy in July 2000. The edict, combined with a severe drought, brought the harvest down to record low levels.
UN monitors carried out an initial assessment of the area of land under cultivation earlier this year and found it had risen dramatically.
The size of the latest harvest represents a blow to Britain, which agreed in April to lead the international effort to help the new Afghan government combat drug production.
The figures will be particularly embarrassing for Tony Blair.
Last year, he used the campaign against drugs as a key justification for the war against the Taliban regime.
He said: ‘We act because the al Qaeda and the Taliban regime are funded in large parts on the drugs trade – 90 per cent of all heroin sold in Britain originates from Afghanistan. Stopping that trade is again directly in our interests.’
Britain has seen a worrying resurgence of heroin use by young people.
The emergence of a new form of the Class A drug, which can be smoked rather than injected, has helped to rid it of its 1980s image as the junkie’s drug.
Low prices and ready availability have also helped swell the number of users willing to experiment with it, encouraged by pushers eager to get them hooked on it.