16 December 2003
Europe's Drug Consumption Stimulates Cannabis Cultivation in Morocco
VIENNA, 16 December (UN Information Service) -- The first cannabis cultivation survey in Morocco, conducted in cooperation between the government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), confirms the country's role as the main producer of cannabis resin (hashish). This year's raw cannabis production in Morocco is estimated at 47,000 metric tons, while the potential hashish production reached 3,080 metric tons. Both are mainly supplied to the European markets.
Cannabis cultivation in Morocco is concentrated in the five provinces of the northern region along the mountainous chain of the Rif. One province alone -- Chefchaouen -- amounts to 50 per cent of cultivation and 43 per cent of potential production of raw cannabis, followed by Taounate (19%), Al Hoceima (17%) and the provinces of Larache and Tetouan.
Announcing the results of the Morocco Cannabis Survey 2003 in Rabat, Morocco today, Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC, emphasized global dimensions of cannabis production in Morocco, the international crime it generates, and the health risks to those who consume it in light of the fact that Moroccan cannabis contains up to 20 per cent of a dangerous active ingredient (THC).
"Morocco has acted with courage and exposed the extent of domestic cannabis cultivation. But the question must be addressed blending demand and supply measures. It is Europe's turn to focus especially on preventive measures, reducing cannabis consumption among the youth. Cannabis causes most of health damage of tobacco smoking. Its active components cause paranoia and cognitive impairment," Mr. Costa said.
Mr. Costa attributed the rise of the cannabis production in Northern Morocco to the three factors: its ancient origin; the poverty of a densely populated region; and the spectacular expansion of cannabis consumption since the 1970s.
The international dimension of the problem was also stressed by Driss Benhima, General Director of the Agency for the Promotion and the Economic and Social Development of Morocco's Northern Provinces.
"The size of the cultivation area revealed by the report is evidence of the international importance of the phenomenon. It is indeed a global cannabis market. Our country is therefore afflicted by an activity which is detrimental to its development and whose factors of expansion are largely out of its control," Mr. Benhima said.
The cannabis production in Morocco, as elsewhere in the world, is to a large extent market-driven activity. Farmers raise a total revenue of US$ 214 million; however, the total market value of Moroccan cannabis resin is estimated at US$ 12 billion. Most of this money is made by the trafficking networks operating in Europe.
In 2001, Spain was the country with largest hashish seizures with 57 per cent of total world seizures and 75 per cent of all seizures in Europe. Morocco was the third on that list with 7 per cent of global seizures.
"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. I salute the Moroccan government's determination to do something about this," Mr. Costa said.
The amount of cannabis cultivation in 2003 suggests an increase in the past few years, which 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 Rif area, are destroyed every year to accommodate new cannabis fields, thus accelerating soil erosion.
Morocco Cannabis Survey 2003 -- in the words of Mr. Benhima -- presents not only a clear picture of cannabis cultivation in the northern provinces of Morocco but a challenge to address the problem through alternative development in continuing cooperation with international community.
Some of the survey highlights include:
The survey estimated cannabis cultivation at about 134,000 hectares in the five northern provinces. This represents 10 per cent of the total area and 27 per cent of the arable lands of the surveyed territory and 1.5 per cent of Morocco's total arable land.
In the cannabis production area, 75 per cent of the villages and 96,600 farms were found to produce cannabis in 2003. This amounted to 66 per cent of the total numbers of farms in the surveyed area (147,000 farms) and 6.5 per cent of the total number of farms in Morocco (1,496.000),
These 96,600 farms represented a total population of about 800,000 persons, i.e. 2.5 per cent of Morocco's total population estimated at 29.6 million in 2002.
Sold 66 per cent in raw form and 34 per cent transformed into powder form, cannabis production enabled the producers to raise a total revenue of approximately US$ 214 million in 2003. This represents 0.57 per cent of Morocco's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), estimated at US$ 37.3 billion.
The average income per family generated by cannabis was estimated at US$ 2,200 and represented on average half (51%) of the total annual income (US$ 4,351) of a cannabis producing family in 2003.
* *** *