UK to Pay Opium Producers

Britain wants to pay Afghan farmers to ditch heroin production
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2007 5:37 PM CST
An Afghan police officer stands guard during an opium burning ceremony in Dah Sabaz on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, June 27, 2007. Afghanistan's poppy crop this year could yield even...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Afghanistan’s opium biz is booming, but British PM Gordon Brown says the almighty pound can squash it, the Guardian reports. He now wants to revive the UK's failed anti-opium program by paying Afghan farmers to produce crops other than poppy. So far, the UK has invested $20 million in Afghan policing, but seen only 400 arrests and a 34% spike in opium harvests this year.

“We have to do a much better job of not targeting the farmers, whose hearts and minds we are trying to win,” one official said. "We have to target the industry above that—the financiers, the shippers, the drug big men who are benefiting from the production." Some UK officials are so down on battling Afghan heroin that they back legal opium production for morphine—but it appears the UK has nixed the notion.