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April is harvesting time for Poppy farmers in Afghanistan.

For twenty days the Taliban lay down their weapons and help the local farmers collect their crop.


Hectares under opium poppy cultivation worldwide

82% (164820 hectares)

Of this is in Afghanistan


Yield per hectare in Afghanistan


Tonnes of opium produced in Afghanistan


Price of 1kg dry opium in Afghanistan (at source)


UK Street price of 1g of heroin

The Taliban collect 1kg of resin in every 10kg produced by the farmers as “tax”. A character known only as the “businessman” purchases the rest. The Taliban sell their share and purchase weapons using the profits, weapons that they use against British soldiers in the province. The soldiers patrolling these fields are not allowed to do anything to disrupt the local farmers and the Afghan Opium economy. This is the job of the Afghan police counter narcotics teams. A job that seldom gets done. In Helmand alone last year only 3,000 acres of a possible 100,000 where destroyed.

Papaver Somniferum is a flower of many faces. To some it is just a nice looking plant that can be used as an ornament, to others it contains healthy oils for use in salads. To many the poppy brings priceless relief from pain in medicinal use. Some use the narcotic form for recreational purposes often with devastating consequences in their personal lives and health. The name roughly translates as “sleep bringing poppy”. I recently saw a photograph in The Times of soldiers from 2 Para patrolling through a field of opium poppies in Helmand, Afghanistan and I began to wonder how they saw the flower.