ZHARI, Afghanistan — It’s the cash crop of the Taliban and the scourge of Afghanistan – the country’s intractable opium cultivation. This year, many Afghan poppy farmers are expecting a windfall as they get ready to harvest opium from a new variety of poppy seeds said to boost yield of the resin that produces heroin.
The plants grow bigger, faster, use less water than seeds they’ve used before, and give up to double the amount of opium, they say.
No one seems to know where the seeds originate from. The farmers of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where most of Afghanistan’s poppies are grown, say they were hand-delivered for planting early this year by the same men who collect the opium after each harvest, and who also provide them with tools, fertilizer, farming advice – and the much needed cash advance.