The development of high-value, high-volume crops such as pomegranates, almonds and grapes could replace poppy farming in Afghanistan, but one major drawback is the long start-up period.
Don Dwyer, an agriculture expert who works for USAID-funded Accelerating Sustainable Agriculture Program in Kabul, said establishing a grape vineyard might take three to five years, Time reports. Compared to poppy, which is harvested annually, impoverished farmers may still opt to go for the traditional crop.
The strong market for poppy also provides farmers the monetary guarantees from their buyers up front. Another huge barrier in revitalizing the legal agriculture sector is the ongoing peace crisis.
“Until now, I don’t believe there has been an adequate focus on how long it takes to break that annual cycle of production [opium],” Dwyer said.