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Climate change delivers a boost in battle against opium harvest


Breaking Earth News
Afghanistan
Freak winter weather linked to global warming is expected to decimate parts of the country's opium harvest. The fierce cold – which claimed hundreds of lives across Afghanistan – is thought to have stopped millions of poppy seeds from germinating, while late rains and a meagre snow melt following an unusually low snowfall have stunted many of the plants that survived. Some farmers could suffer up to 50 per cent losses. Poppy is a winter crop. It is normally planted before the frosts and the seeds germinate before the cold weather. They sit dormant through the winter, then shoot up in the spring. Poppy is more resistant to drought than food crops, but a water shortage at a key stage in the plant's life cycle is expected to stunt the size of the seed pods. Afghanistan's dry climate is especially susceptible to climate change. This winter was so cold there was less snow than usual. Most of the country's rivers are fed by meltwater from the Hindu Kush mountain range. Meanwhile, the spring rains, which usually come in late February, arrived in April, long after the poppy seedlings started a key growth spurt. The drop in poppy yields is unlikely to affect heroin supply on Britain's streets. Experts estimate there is at least seven years' supply in transit from the fields to the users.

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