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Victorious warlords set to open the opium floodgates

by Paul Harris - BBC Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2001 at 6:10 PM

Ali expects the new rulers of the province to encourage him to grow as much opium as possible. 'Before the ban the government used to collect taxes on my poppies, now the warlords will collect them. We will have no problems from them,' he said.

Sayed Ali welcomed the fall of the Taliban, but the new political and social freedoms now on offer mean little to the poverty-stricken Afghan farmer. What is important is that he can grow opium poppies again - he has already planted his first crop.

In the small mud-brick village of Chinar Khalia, near the eastern city of Jalalabad, Ali and other local farmers are now looking forward to a bumper harvest around mid-April. The Taliban ban on poppy-growing, which slashed Afghan opium production by 94 per cent last year, is over. And the impact on the West will be huge - 90 per cent of Europe's heroin comes from opium grown in Afghanistan.

'The Taliban order on poppy-growing was false,' Ali said. 'It hurt many farmers that they could not grow poppies. Now I will earn money again.'

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