THE RATE OF poppy cultivation in Afghanistan could have a major effect on the Irish drug trade, a Sinn Féin TD has warned.
Seán Crowe yesterday put down a parliamentary question to call on the government and the EU to do more to combat the cultivation of the flower, which is used to make heroin.
Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose to a new high of more than 200,000 hectares in 2013, a 36% increase over last year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
That is the size of around 283 Phoenix Parks and the UN estimates that total opium production reached roughly 5,500 tons.
Crowe said that this will impact on Ireland.
“Over the past 3 decades in Dublin we have all seen the devastating impact that cheap and widely available heroin can do to communities and individuals.
“I have stood over too many graves and attended too many funerals not to be concerned about this new development.
“It is important that we stop this drug at its source before it even gets here, and that means EU countries working with the Afghan government, as well as the governments of Iran and Pakistan, whose territories are to be used as supply lines to transport this opiate.”
However, responding to Crowe’s calls, junior Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Costello said that Ireland had withdrawn funding for a UN drug trafficking program because of Iran’s use of the death penalty in trafficking cases.
He added that the situation is probably worse than Crowe had outlined. He said that around 1 million Afghans are addicted to heroin.
He said that the government is supporting EU and UN efforts to change the crops being harvested in Afghanistan.
“The European Union, the United States, the World Bank and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization are putting in place programmes to support the cultivation of alternative crops to poppy production.
“I referred earlier to the cultivation of saffron, as well as rose oil, a high-value export product, and grapes. The strategy is to provide for high-value alternatives to undermine the production of opium.”