Afghans lead in hashish production

Afghanistan is known as the world's leading producer of opium. What you probably didn't know is that the Afghans have also taken the lead in hashish production.

According to the UNODC's cannabis survey published today, 10,000 to 24,000 hectares of cannabis are grown in Afghanistan every year. While Afghanistan does not have the largest cannabis cultivation, local cannabis crop yields very high levels of resin (145kg/ha compared with 40kg/ha in Morocco) with an estimated 1,500 to 3,500 tons of hashish produced a year, making it the world's biggest hashish producer. Cannabis farmers did not report producing or selling cannabis herb (marijuana), focusing exclusively on the production of garda (cannabis resin powder).

In the survey based on data from 1,634 villages in 20 provinces, high sale price was given as the top reason for current cannabis cultivation, as well as the top reason to initiate or resume cultivation. Gross income per hectare for wheat, the main income source of farmers who do not grow cannabis, is $1,200. Cannabis cultivation, on the other hand, yields even higher returns than opium cultivation, with gross income at $3,900 per hectare and $3,600 respectively. Harvesting and processing cannabis is also cheap, with expenditure being closer to that for wheat than for opium, meaning net income from cannabis is 66% higher than from opium.

While Afghan farmers still favor opium cultivation, over two thirds also cultivate cannabis. Regions in which cannabis is cultivated correspond to opium cultivation, with a marked shift having occured in the last five years from the northern regions to the more unstable regions in the south. Comparatively little cannabis is consumed domestically, with cannabis trafficking following established opium trafficking routes in the south, as reflected by recent seizures.