This 2010 Afghanistan Cannabis Survey updates the first-ever Afghanistan Cannabis Survey that was produced in 2009 by the UNODC and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN). Based on years of evidence from cannabis seizures that pointed to Afghanistan as a main cannabis producer, the 2009 survey was the initial effort to systemically estimate cannabis cultivation and production in the country. The findings confirmed Afghanistan’s role as a major grower of cannabis, but also discovered that the country produced more cannabis resin or hashish than any other nation. 

In Afghanistan, cannabis is planted between April and June and harvested between October and January. While cannabis is mainly cultivated as a mono crop, some farmers cultivate cannabis along with other crops on so-called ‘bunds’ along the boundaries or edges of fields. Most cannabis fields require irrigation.

The regional distribution of cannabis cultivation continued to change, especially when examined over the last six years. In 2005, cannabis cultivation was concentrated in the northern part of the country; then, between 2005-2009, the centre of cannabis cultivation shifted to the southern part of the country; and in 2010, cannabis cultivation appeared to be more widely distributed. Still, cannabis cultivation has long been associated with opium cultivation and insecurity and in 2010 that connection persisted. Most cannabis is cultivated in the insecure south where most opium is also produced. More than 60% of cannabis farmers also cultivated opium in 2010.

Money and poverty alleviation remain the primary reasons reported by farmers to cultivate cannabis and in 2010 farmers had more incentives to grow cannabis than ever. While prices levels of cannabis in Afghanistan remained relatively stable between 2006-2009, prices rose sharply in 2010, particularly in the Northern and North-eastern regions of the country.

Farmers’ gross income from cannabis per hectare in 2010 increased 130%, from US$ 3,900/ha in 2009 to US$ 9,000/ha in 2010. This greatly exceeded farmers’ gross income from opium (US$ 4,900/ha) and farmers’ gross income from wheat (US$ 770/ha). Comparatively, gross income from opium increased by 36% in 2010 over 2009, while gross income from wheat fell by nearly half (47%). Consequently, the average gross household income from cannabis-growing households nearly doubled, from US$1,553 in 2009 to US$3,000 in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of GDP represented by the total farm-gate value of cannabis resin more than doubled, from up to 0.9% in 2009 to up to 2% in 2010.

Farm-gate prices of cannabis resin powder (garda) varied considerably between the North/North-eastern and other regions. This likely reflects differences in quality (proportion of resin to plant material) as well as other factors such as the degree of resin supply and demand. Farmers cited the Government ban and the religious ban on cannabis cultivation most frequently when asked why they had stopped cannabis cultivation in 2010. However, considerably fewer farmers in 2010 mentioned the Government ban than in 2009.