Sunday

25th Jun 2017

'Heroin drought' in Europe due to fall in Afghan production

  • Afghan opium production is down sharply (Photo: isafmedia)

Europe has been hit by a ‘heroin drought’, according to the latest EU report on drug use.

The streets of Europe, in particular those in the UK and Ireland, have seen a sharp disruption in the supply of the opiate in the last year.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, describing the situation as an “apparent heroin drought” in its 2011 report, assesses the situation at least in part resulting from a drop in the Afghan opium production to 3,600 tonnes in 2010 - half the level reached in the previous year

“The availability of heroin is reported to have dropped sharply in a number of countries at the end of 2010 and early 2011, with the ‘drought’ being particularly evident in Ireland and the UK,” the report said.

Shortages have also been documented in Italy, Slovenia, Russia and Switzerland, although the extent is less clear, while Germany, France and Scandinavian countries report little or no reduction in heroin availability. Heroin supply in other countries remains unaffected.

The crop in Afghanistan was hit by poppy blight in the spring of 2010, a possible factor in decline, although police reports suggest that heroin made from Afghan opium may not appear on the European drug markets until about 18 months after harvest.

The EU drugs centre noted that the blight did not significantly change the area under opium cultivation, but had an impact on the quantity of opium produced.

Unfavourable weather conditions may also have played a role, as may have a fungal infection that affected opium fields in the major poppy-growing provinces, particularly Helmand and Kandahar.

In its 10 year since Nato deployed to the country to fight Taliban extremists, Afghanistan has also seen heavy fighting in the south and crackdowns on heroin laboratories and opium stockpiles.

Additionally, heroin destined for western Europe has increasingly been diverted to the Russian market, although Russia also appears to be undergoing a heroin shortage.

A third explanation for the drought may relate to police actions disrupting trafficking, particularly after the dismantling of Turkey-UK wholesale heroin networks.

Furthermore, in 2007 and 2008, the drug market faced record seizures of the heroin precursor acetic anhydride in Europe, and, suggests the report, these confiscations may have affected the drug market over a longer period.

The report concludes that in the end, it is likely that “a combination of some of these factors has played a role in disrupting the supply of heroin to Europe, causing severe shortages in some markets.”

The decline in the Afghan crop yield led to a dramatic rise in prices at harvest time, the report continued, noting that the average farm-gate price of 1 kg of dry opium increased by a factor of 2.6, from US$64 in 2009 to US$169 in 2010, and the average price of heroin in the country increased by a factor of 1.4.

As a result, the EU drugs centre warns that the effects of the sharp decline in supply on consumer markets in Europe in terms of price and purity, need to be followed closely.

Already, the centre notes a “considerable drop” in the purity of heroin seized in the UK between the third quarter of 2009 and the third quarter of 2010.

'Spice' and other 'legal drugs' on the rise in Europe

European drug manufacturers and dealers are becoming highly innovative and sophisticated in marketing legal alternatives to illicit drugs, such as 'spice', an annual report on the state of drugs in Europe shows.

Parents of EU children win right to stay

Countries cannot automatically refuse residence to parents of EU children simply because the other parent could care for the minor, the EU's top court ruled on Wednesday.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit