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Afghan farmers replace poppies with pomegranates in war on drugs

Afghan farmers replace poppies with pomegranates in war on drugs

KABUL: Poppy fields across Afghanistan are slowly being replaced by pomegranate plantations as incentives offered to farmers to replace their illegal crops is turning around the war on drugs.

Some of those farmers are visiting Dubai this week for Gulfood, the world’s biggest food exhibition, to bring their produce to new markets.

Winning the war on drugs is seen as the key to winning the war on terror, with sources inside Afghanistan claiming the Taliban war machine is fuelled by $400 million every year.

“The agricultural sector is the backbone of our economy and it is playing a vital role in our nation’s development, but there some serious challenges,” said Nasir Durrani, agricultural minister of Afghanistan.

Insecurity in our country has fed the growth of the poppy and it is why farmers have been growing it for international markets.

“We have to find alternatives for these farmers that provide a product of equal or greater value, and we are beginning to do that.”

Afghanistan produces 90 per cent of the world’s poppy-produced heroin supply, placing it firmly in the eye of the storm. That is beginning to change.

The industry employs about 3 million Afghans, but new incentives encouraging farmers to switch to crops like saffron, pomegranate and nuts are helping change the agricultural landscape.

Trade routes are opening up for Afghan farmers, who are being offered grants to match their own investments to help set up new farms to cultivate legal crops.

Previous challenges of standardisation and achieving international quality benchmarks are being overcome with poppy farmers educated on the potential of other crops.