Why is it ok for British farmers to grow poppies for painkillers but not Afghans? - it's certainly not because Afghan farmers would get less money for painkillers than heroin - they'd get more.
When people ask when opium poppy crops in Afghanistan will be licensed for sale as painkillers to reduce the global shortage and end one cause of the war there the usual reply from governments is that Afghan farmers wouldn’t accept the lower prices they’d get for painkillers compared to heroin.
However the UN Office on Drugs and Crime found Afghan farmers only get about 20% of the sale price of their crops as heroin (1). So if they were offered a much higher percentage of the sale price of their crops as morphine they’d actually be getting more money. If you added in international aid to establish pharmaceutical plants in Kabul to process the opium paste into painkillers for sale then many more jobs for Afghans would also be created.
The UK government has even approved British farmers growing poppy crops to reduce the price of morphine for the NHS (‘UK farmers allowed to cultivate poppies for morphine’ September 3rd) (2). So why not Afghans who rely on poppy crop money for food and for 70% of their entire economy?
(1) = UN Office on Drugs and Crime ‘Afghanistan’s Drug Industry’,
(cited by Ahmed Rashid (2008) Descent into Chaos, Chapter 15, p326
(2) = Herald 03 Sep 2008 ‘UK farmers allowed to cultivate poppies for morphine’,