Demand in Europe drives cannabis production in Morocco to dangerous levels
The demand for cannabis in Europe is driving more farmers in Morocco to cultivate the plant at the expense of legal crops, resulting in a growing industry now worth about $12 billion, according to a new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The first cannabis cultivation survey in Morocco, conducted by the Government and UNODC, confirms the country's role as the main producer of cannabis resin, or hashish. The report estimates the Arab state’s raw cannabis production for 2003 at 47,000 metric tons corresponding to a potential hashish production of 3,080 metric tons. Both substances are mainly supplied to the European markets.
The amount of cannabis cultivation in 2003 suggests an increase in the past few years, which, according to the report, is often detrimental to other agricultural activities. This phenomenon of monoculture is dangerous for the ecosystem, especially because the farmers are making an extensive use of fertilizers and overexploit the soil.
Moreover, forested areas, which are among the specificities of the mountainous chain of the Rif area, are destroyed every year to accommodate new cannabis fields, thus accelerating soil erosion.
“Europe’s drug habits are at the heart of the illegal activity, which is explained but not justified by the poverty of the Rif population,” said Executive Director of UNODC Antonio Maria Costa in Rabat following the release of the survey.
Cannabis cultivation in Morocco is concentrated in the five provinces of the northern region along the Rif. One province alone - Chefchaouen - amounts to 50 percent of cultivation and 43 percent of potential production of raw cannabis, followed by Taounate, Al-Hoceima and the provinces of Larache and Tetouan.
The survey estimates cannabis cultivation at about 134,000 hectares in the five northern provinces. This represents 10 percent of the total area and 27 percent of the arable lands of the surveyed territory and 1.5 percent of Morocco’s total arable land.
In the cannabis production area, 75 percent of the villages and 96,600 farms were found to produce cannabis in 2003. This amounted to 66 percent of the total numbers of farms in the surveyed area and 6.5 percent of the total number of farms in Morocco.
Sold 66 percent in raw form and 34 percent transformed into powder form, cannabis production enabled the producers to raise a total revenue of approximately $214 million in 2003. This represents 0.57 percent of Morocco’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), estimated at $37.3 billion.
Canabis producing farms represent a total population of about 800,000 persons, 2.5 percent of Morocco’s total population estimated at 29.6 million in 2002. The average income per family generated by cannabis was estimated at $2,200 and represented on average half of the total annual income of a cannabis producing family in 2003.
In 2001, Spain was the country with largest hashish seizures with 57 percent of total world seizures and 75 percent of all seizures in Europe. Morocco was the third on that list with seven percent of global seizures. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)