Afghanistan and Poppy cultivation








the illegal production of this flower is now funding the killing of British troops

We are nearing the end of the season for the big ornamental poppies that flower all over South Oxfordshire, the area I used to represent in parliament. The petals have fallen to the ground, pink and purple and red. But I expect the seed-pods are still standing tall. If you take a sharp knife to one of those seed-pods, and make a careful diagonal incision, you will see a white latex ooze out. What is that gunk? That is opium, my friend; and the reason there are so many giant poppies all over that part of England is that the seeds have been blown in the wind or carried in the guts of birds. They have come from the farms. We actually grow opium there, and we grow it officially.

At direct government urgings, there are large tracts of land that are given over to the cultivation of the palaver somniferum, for the very good reason that the opium is essential for the NHS. When we die of cancer, or when we are carried off in any other mortal agony, our final miseries are invariably palliated by opiates, in the form of morphine or diamorphine, and indeed our respiration is typically suppressed by these drugs in a vast and unadmitted programme of humane killing.

Given this reality, and given the desperate shortage of analgesic drugs that has occasionally hit the health service, opium has entered the repertoire of UK cash crops.

There are several respects in which the Afghan war has not yet been successful, in the past eight years. We have not captured or killed Osama bin Laden. We have not crushed the Taliban. We have not created a stable and democratic nation-state. But there is one sector of the Afghan economy that has positively boomed since 2001, and that is poppy production. Before we kicked out the Taliban, the crop was deemed un-Islamic, and production fell virtually to zero. Since the unleashing of the War on Terror, combined with the War on Drugs, the figures have been astonishing. Only 15 per cent of Afghanistan is arable, and yet more of that land is now under poppy than ever before.

This appears in full in the Daily Telegraph

17 thoughts on “Afghanistan and Poppy cultivation”

  1. Is this another of the Mayor’s jokes? How can seeds blown into Oxfordshire grow enough flowers to start an opium trade, ha ha Boris, you got us going that time! Oh they seeds are blown from farms, not Afghanistan.

    I have huge Oriental poppies in my garden, and I am now regarding them with suspicion.

    “Be in no doubt that what British troops are doing in Helmand is heroic, and it is very far from futile. If Nato forces pulled out, the Taliban would probably overrun Kabul in three weeks, with catastrophic consequences for Pakistan and for global stability. That is why we need them there, and that is why they deserve to be properly armed and protected.”

    This is the part of the article that interests me most. Our troops are heroic and they do have to be there. Most of all, they need to be properly armed and protected, and haven’t we complained about this before, that Gordon will gaily fling our cash in the direction of profligate banks, and so many other unworthy causes, but when it comes to our brave troops, he is at his penny pinching worst.

    When you read what high ranking army officers have to say about the PM, you can believe that David Cameron’s accusation to Gordon that he gives lip service to being British is the truth.

    ps. I am going to ponder this thing about the opium and the poppies, as just because the Mayor thinks of an unusual slant to something, does not mean he is wrong.

  2. Narcotics policy has change on cultivation, pointing out that poppy growing was down by 20 percent from the previous year

  3. At last – something sensible being said by someone other than just me boring my wife on how to progress this messy situation!

  4. On Newsnight last night, a high ranking British Army officer was talking to Jeremy Paxman about the fighting in Afghanistan. He said that three years ago, when discussing the proposed military initiative, Tony Blair said regarding equipment “You can have anything you want”.

    Apparently, that has just not happened. The army have never had enough helicopters and there are many other pieces of vital equipment they have never received.

    As Jeremy Paxman pointed out, this is just not fair to the men. An expert on Afghanistan made the point that he does not believe that Gordon Brown has enough belief in the value of this military initiative. He is motivated by the relationship with the US and President Obama, not a desire to succeed in Afghanistan and his ambivalence is reflected in his failure to provide enough equipment. The point was also made on the programme that the objectives set for the troops are too ambitious and unlikely to be achieved. If lower objectives were set, there would be more likelihood of a successful conclusion.

    Against a background of this political ambivalence and ineptitude, eight British soldiers killed in the conflict are being brought home today to RAF Lyneham.

    Hundreds of people intend to line the streets of Wootton Bassett to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers and to show solidarity with their families. The people of Wootton Bassett have been doing this every time the bodies of fallen soldiers are brought home.

  5. The Englishman, I have Papaver somniferum in my garden! They are bigger, blowsier, showier than in the Mayor’s picture. Some are peachy pink and some are bright orange.

  6. Obviously the solution is for all countries to legalise all recreational drugs. The present system ensures the maximum profit for criminals and unending violence in such countries as Afghanistan and Colombia, without preventing anybody who wants drugs to get them.

  7. Well I raised this issue at Department of Health conference about Misuse of drugs for recreational purposes in the immigrant communities. I specifically pin pointed the Afghan problem which is where the worlds best heroin comes from. There is no doubt during the Cold War this was used to generate money, since then many warlords and the Taliban have been funding their arms and high tech equipment on the sale of Heroin. Nothing has been done to eradicate this problem which has affected its neighbouring countries in particular Pakistan and Iran; and also Europe ; UK being on of the major countries to be affected with Heroin misuse.

    The real problem isnt the poppies or the heroin or the Taliban. The major problem is the poverty of the farmers who do not have a large income or live on the absolute poverty line. There is little scope to help them grow economically on other produce and unfortuntely growing Poppies pays much better. The problem that lies in Afghanistan as highlighted by a Afghan Female MP is to create opportunities of Jobs and develop an economy which is not reliant on Heroin.

    This is the challenge the world faces. To say that this is the thing causing death to British Soldiers is good but you must not ignore all the facts.

  8. Ah, red poppies – Wind flowers. These delicate red flowers always remind me of war, fallen soldiers, loss and sadness… ” There’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England…”

    If you can’t sleep at night, folks, just break a young poppy flower stem[Ed: held back]…… Drink it and it will help you sleep.

    This is how poor farmers in that part of the world cope with crying kids whom they have to look after while they are working in their field. Correctly they use Papaver opium ( papaver somniferum ). But any varieties of poppy can do the same trick. Enjoy!

  9. Yes – this is a brave a sensible argument for Boris to make. Buying up the poppy crops from impoverished Afghan farmers is a win-win-win strategy because:

    It undermines the main source of revenue for the Taliban -win

    It stops putting the military forces at odds with the Afghan farmers who are desparate to grow any crops that can make a living – win

    It provides a source for raw materials for producing one of the most useful drugs in medicine – morphine (of which there is a huge worldwide shortage) – win.

    Yes, there are lots of difficulties with this, but lots of stranger things are subsidised by the European Union – fleets of fishing boats to catch virtually extinct fish for example. Governments should bite the bullet and turn the no-to-poppy-crops policy on it’s head.

    Good on you Boris for standing up and saying it.

  10. Tiresias

    >Obviously the solution is for all countries to legalise all recreational drugs

    I am coming round to that view having been militantly against any legalisation.

    Boris has been laissez-faire on this issue and it may not be such a mad idea after all.

  11. So who get to drink the poppy? The farmers or their poor kids?
    If it’s the farmers then they are so unbelievably selfish. They just want to drink the poppy to sleep all day until the cows come home to avoid working and listening to their kids crying?

  12. So who get to drink the poppy? The farmers or the poor kids? If it’s the farmers then they are so unbelievably selfish and ignorant people. They just want to sleep all day until the cows come home to avoid working and listening to their kids crying?

  13. Gordon Brown was a total disgrace in PMQs today. Cameron raised the question of helicopters for our men in Afghanitan and Gordon accused him of playing party politics.

    The PM’s fake concern and pretence of taking the moral high ground were absolutely nauseating.

    David Cameron has spoken up for better treatment for our army since he became Party Leader. How dare Gordon Brown level that accusation when he has shamefully failed to care for our troops. I seem to recalled that Brown disgustingly levelled the same accusation at Mr. Cameron when Cameron asked for a proper inquiry into the death of Baby Peter and never was an action more justified than that.

    Gordon Brown reduces politics to the level of the gutter. He should be ashamed.

  14. Dude, it’s ‘papaver’, not ‘palaver’! ‘somniferum’ is right, of course!

    although, at a second thought, your formulation:

    “palaver somniferum, for the very good reason that the opium is essential for the NHS”

    makes quite a lot of sense… better say… quite a lot of… palaver.

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