ISLAMABAD: The Afghan government has signed a deal with an Australian company, Cpharm, that wants to set up a cannabis processing centre in Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesperson said on Wednesday.
“All the stages of the contract with Cpharm have been completed and in a few days the project will be officially launched which will create jobs for many citizens,” Saeed Khosty, Taliban press director, posted on Twitter.
He said that a representative of the Australian company pledged $450-million investment for the project in Afghanistan. “Afghanistan’s deputy narcotics minister met Cpharm’s representative on Tuesday in this regard,” Khosty said.
He added that the company, which produces medicinal cannabis cream, would be given access to thousands of acres of Afghan cannabis crops. Quoting a spokesperson for Cpharm, Khosty posted on Twitter: “Afghanistan has 6,000 acres of land for cannabis cultivation and they (Cpharm) need 5000 acres of cannabis.”
After taking control of Afghanistan in August, the Taliban authorities had vowed to crack down on the illicit drugs trade.
Yussef Wafa, Taliban governor of Kandahar, said in October that the group had been arresting drug users and would not let farmers grow cannabis or opium poppies.
According to Afghan poppy and hashish (cannabis) cultivators, they have not seen any real change in Taliban’s attitude towards them since they took control of the country.
Cannabis and opium crops were known to be significant sources of revenue for the hardline group when it was fighting a war against the US-led occupation of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan produces significant amounts of cannabis and manufactures methamphetamine using the local ephedra plant. It is also the world’s largest opium producer, accounting for 85 percent of the global total in 2020.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported last week that opium production in Afghanistan had increased by 8 percent in 2021, although the area under poppy cultivation shrank.
The report also warned that the drugs trade could get a further boost from the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy: “The current contraction of licit economic opportunities makes households even more vulnerable to engaging in illicit activities.”