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What's wrong with the poppies?

[ 2010-05-18 14:31]     字号 [] [] []  
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With livelihoods threatened by a mysterious blight on opium crops, many farmers in southern Afghanistan suspect policies of the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai may be behind the disease.

With anti-US feelings pervading Helmand and Kandahar provinces, some of the areas worst hit by insurgent violence, the blight that may cut opium output by half has played into deeply-held suspicions of the government and foreign troops.

Few farmers appear to believe nature was the cause. Some farmers blame a new fertilizer they were forced to obtain after the government banned ammonium nitrate, which can also be used by insurgents to make bombs.

"I have not only had my poppies affected, but my wheat farms too, and I suspect it's due to the fertilizer imported from Pakistan," said Janan, a farmer near Helmand's provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. "People have had their other type of crops suffer as a result, too."

Afghanistan is the world's biggest supplier of opium, a thick paste processed to make heroin. About 90 percent of the crop is harvested in southern Helmand province where thousands of US troops are fighting an insurgency partly funded by the trade.

While the blight may cut off some sources of funding for the Taliban in their southern stronghold, the disease may only spark more farmer resentment and play into the insurgent's hands. It could also encourage more crops as the price increases.

"All indications ... seem to hint towards a natural plight," said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime head in Afghanistan, said in Kabul.

"Any plague, even if there was a plague on the melons, (the farmers) would blame it on the US. So this definitely will be the same thing, so there will definitely be a negative impact."


1. What is the name of the president of Afghanistan?

2. What crops are affected?

3. What drug is made from the crop?


1. Hamid Karzai.

2. Opium.

3. Heroin.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

What's wrong with the poppies?

About the broadcaster:

What's wrong with the poppies?

Lee Hannon is Chief Editor at China Daily with 15-years experience in print and broadcast journalism. Born in England, Lee has traveled extensively around the world as a journalist including four years as a senior editor in Los Angeles. He now lives in Beijing and is happy to move to China and join the China Daily team.