Eliminating drug production in Afghanistan is crucial to solving the impoverished state's many other problems, the Russian president's special envoy said 28 May 2010. "Without solving the problem of drugs, nothing can be done in Afghanistan. There will be no fight against corruption, no domestic security and no protection for neighboring states," said Anatoly Safonov, thepresidential envoy in charge of international cooperation against terrorism and transnational organized crime. "Speaking about our cooperation with the U.S., we note with approval the adequate solutions and approaches, especially with regard to Afghanistan. But Afghan drugs remain a problem area," Safonov said while speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.Moscow has repeatedly criticized U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan for failing to eradicate heroin production and warned that drug trafficking is endangering Russia's national security.
An international forum, Afghan Drug Production - A Challenge to the World Community, organized conjointly by Russia's Federal Drug Control Service and RIA news agency, was held in Moscow on June 9-10. Russian PresidentDmitry Medvedev addressed the forum. He accentuated the serious threat posed to international peace by illicit trafficking in Afghan opiates, a threat facing not only Russia, but also other countries in Europe and North America.
A survey on Drug Use in Afghanistan, issued 21 June 2010 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), showed that around one million Afghans (age 15-64)suffer from drug addiction. At eight per cent of the population, this rate is twice the global average. Many Afghans are taking drugs as a kind of self-medication against the hardships of life.
Opium prices have surged to nearly $115-125 per kilogram from a stable US$25-$35 in some areas. Antonia Maria Costa, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), reported in May 2010 thatAfghanistan's expected opium harvest for the 2010 season will be three-quarters of last year's output - a substantial reduction of 2,600 tonnes. A naturally occurring blight exacerbated by climatic conditions is behind this season's failed harvest. The blight was spread by aphids, small plant-eating bugs that can carry fungi and viruses. Evidence points to a fungus, possibly macrosporium papaverus,that causes root and capsule rot. Taliban insurgents blamed international forces for spraying unknown chemicals over southern Afghanistan. Previous efforts sought to "weaponize" fusarium oxysporum, a plant fungus capable of devouring coca bushes, poppy fields and marijuana plants. The project was terminated in 2002 without the fungus being used.
By one UN estimate, the Taliban raise up to$300-million a year from the drug trade. Retail sales worldwide of Afghan heroin are said by some to be of the order of 200 billion dollars a year, but this number is surely far too high. By one account, consumer expenditure figures for Western Europe could be around $20 billion for heroin, and in the year 2001 ONDCP estimated total US consumer spending on heroin at about $12 billion. In 2005 the UnitedNations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated the total value of the global opium and heroin market to be valued at $65 billion, with about 11 million heroin users worldwide. [United Nations, "2005 World Drug Report," Office on Drugs and Crime, June 2005, pg. 132.]
The United Nations reported in 2008 that the retail price of heroin in the United States has fluctuated between about $100 and $200 pergram in recent years, while retail prices in Europe have fluctated between $70 and $100 per gram in recent years. Wholesale prices are generally about half of retail prices. Over the past two decades, total global opium producation has consistently averaged about 5,000 metric tons each year, or about 500 tons of heroin. Of this, about 20% is consistently seized by law enforcement, leaving about...