No action, poppy about to finish blooming in Balkh
MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): Poppy crop grown in some districts of northern Balkh province has produced flowers, but the authorities are silent on it.
Just before reaching maturity, the poppy plant produces a flower and after about a week, the flower petals fall off, leaving a capsule. Raw opium gum is harvested from this capsule.
Balkh province was declared poppy-free about six years ago, but once again farmers have resumed growing the cash crop in some districts and in some areas, the plant has reached maturity.
The illicit plant is grown in various areas of Chamtal, Char Bolak, Dawlatabad, Sholgar and Balkh districts, with the bulk of the crop is cultivated in Chamtal and Char Bolak districts.
Farmers acknowledge growing poppy crop is illegal, but they say the government’s negligence towards agriculture development has compelled them to grow the illicit plant.
Provincial government officials also confirm poppy cultivation in the said districts and say if the Counternarcotics Ministry launches an eradication campaign, there will be no problem in its implementation.
A resident of Naw Shehr area in Chamtal district, Attaullah, told Pajhwok Afghan News the poppy plant had reached maturity in the district. He said there had been speculations last year that the government would take no action against poppy growers.
“That’s why people amid fears in their hearts started growing the poppy plant in their fields. We would everyday listen to news if the government plans to take action, but finally people realized the government is silent.”
Attullah said he had grown poppy plant on his five acres of land and some had produced flowers and others reached maturity.
He said it was due to government’s negligence towards agriculture that farmers resumed growing poppies in their fields; otherwise everyone knew it was banned.
The plant is widely grown in Char Bolak district. Residents of this district say the lack of government’s attention towards agriculture development offered farmers an excuse to resume poppy cultivation.
Bismillah Khan, a resident of Adina Masjid area of Char Bolak district, has grown poppy plant on his six acres of land. He said he owned hundreds of acres of land, but the income from the land was equal to nothing.
He said after the government did not provide him any considerable assistance to improve his income from his land, he was left with no option but to grow poppy.
Balkh agriculture and livestock department officials say growing poppy is illegal and insist farmers need to be supported to stay away from growing the banned plant.
Balkh Agriculture Director Katib Shams told Pajhwok Afghan News if farmers were provided with facilities, they would not grow poppy.
He said drugs mafia used to distribute money among farmers before growing the poppy plant and obtain their money after the plant was harvested.
Another reason behind the cultivation of poppy plant is cited the shortage of irrigation water in Balkh province.
Shams said mostly wheat and cotton crops were grown in the province and the two crops needed much water while poppy plant needed much less water.
The agriculture director said the government should provide all possible facilities to farmers in order to enable them to switch to legal crops.
Officials at the Governor’s House also confirmed the cultivation of poppy plant in some districts, but said they needed assistance from the international community and the Ministry of Counternarcotics to prevent the cultivation.
The governor’s spokesman, Munir Farhad, said the provincial government had five years ago reduced to zero poppy cultivation in the province, but received insufficient reward in return.
He said the government was responsible to provide good services to people, but the central government had failed in assisting Balkh farmers after the zero cultivation.
Farhad said if the Ministry of Counternarcotics and international organizations working to discourage poppy fulfilled the needs of farmers and took a decision to eradicate the crop, the provincial administration was ready to implement it.
He said a meeting at the Governor’s House on Monday decided to launch poppy eradication campaign, but without the central government’s support, the campaign would bear no results.
Counternarcotics Minister Salamat Azimi, who recently visited Balkh province, had confirmed the cultivation of the plant in Balkh and had said they were working on a plan to increase cooperation between the provincial and central governments against poppy.
She had also said poppy grown in the province would be eradicated with the help of security forces.
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