Afghanistan produced 80 percent of the world’s opium in 2022, UN report

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has in a recent report said that Afghanistan supplied 6,200 tons of opium in 2022, which is an estimated 80% of global opiate production, despite the Taliban’s ban on opium poppy cultivation in April 2022.

The report published on Sunday indicated that the supply and trafficking of illicit drugs including cocaine and methamphetamine have significantly increased worldwide, including in Afghanistan, where these drugs along with opium, which is used to make heroin, are being produced.

New data by UNODC put the global estimate of people using drugs in 2021 at over 296 million, an increase of 23% over the previous decade. The number of people who suffer from drug use disorders, meanwhile, has skyrocketed to 39.5 million, a 45% increase over 10 years.

Although the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates a 10% decrease in opium production in Afghanistan compared to previous years owing to the effects of multi-season drought and possible drug ban by the Taliban, it stated that further decline in opium cultivation would be tested in 2023.

“Global opium production declined marginally due to less opium being produced in Afghanistan (10 percent less) as a consequence of droughts in early 2022. The 2023 opium harvest in Afghanistan may see a drastic drop following the 2022 national drug ban, with possibly global consequences,” The report said.

“Time is needed to determine whether trends hold and the effect that may have on global heroin markets, especially those sourced by opium from Afghanistan.”

While highlighting that the benefits of a possible significant reduction in illicit opium cultivation in Afghanistan would be global in 2023, the report says it will be at the expense of many farmers in the country who do not have alternative means of income generation and amid soaring drug prices.

“Afghanistan is also a major producer of methamphetamines in the region, and the drop in opiate cultivation could drive a shift towards synthetic drug manufacture, where different actors will benefit.” The report noted.

Moreover, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime remains skeptical regarding the “linkages between the illegal manufacture of heroin and methamphetamine [in Afghanistan] and whether the two markets will develop in parallel or whether one will substitute the other in the future.”