Thursday, January 13, 2005

UN attempt to provide drug solution

The UN is to revive Afghanistan's sugar industry to give growers an alternative to opium.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is to reopen Afghanistan's only sugar factory, which closed in the 1970s forcing the country to import 300,000 tons each year.

'The revival of the sugar industry could offer an alternative to poppy production and could help to boost incomes of family farmers by introducing a profitable cash crop,' Serge Verniau, FAO representative in Kabul, the Afghan capital, said.

Afghanistan's opium production has increased massively since the start of the 'war on terror' and the UNOffice on drugs and crime recently revealed that the country had 131,000 hectares of land dedicated to opium production last year, a record in its own history as well as making the country the biggest producer in the world.

The report called on the international community to do more in the country's battle against the illegal drug trade.

This initiative is being funded by Germany, who are also setting up projects for animal health and livestock production.

The factory is located 250 kilometres northwest of Kabul, an area which is considered to be the most suitable for sugar beet production. FAO will help to identify farmers to cultivate exclusively sugar beet under contract. Around 2000 growers will be selected and organized into groups.

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