KABUL, Afghanistan - A record crop of poppies in Afghanistan has led to a world-wide glut of poppyseeds, a popular topping on muffins and bagels. Strict production controls established by the Taliban fell away following the US "liberation" of Afghanistan. The price of poppyseeds in international markets including Marseille, Hong Kong, and New York is now in a freefall. Individual Afghani farmers have reportedly begunslitting the bulbs of neighbors' poppy plants at night in clandestine efforts to reduce seed production.
"Outstanding" growing conditions meant that Afghanistan's poppyseed production remained undiminished even though efforts to reduce poppy farming cut the land under cultivation by 21 percent, the U.N. chief of crunchy seeds reported.
Mario Costas, of the Bagel Enforcement Agency (BEA) , warned it could would require the consumption of tens of thousands of poppyseed bagels PER DAY just to consume the poppyseeds already in storage. "The problem," according to Costas, is "Competition from sesame seeds, onions, and other bagel toppings." New York City, with an estimated 780,000 bagel junkies, will this year alone consume nearly 20% of the Afghani crop.
Illicit trade in the dark, crunchy bagel topping is blamed for fighting in some rural areas and is suspected to be partially funding an insurgency by Taliban-led rebels. The WTO has issued warnings that the glut is becoming a "Baker's Dilemna" as the small black seeds begin to appear with increasing frequency on french bread, pizza crusts, and other breads they "don't belong on."
Afghanistan is still estimated to produce 87 percent of the world's supply of poppyseeds and "miscellaneous products" derived from the poppy plant. Fortunately, all the eyes of the US Army see are "fields of flowers" according to one farmer. Mule trains taking "poppyseeds" to market come back filled with outrageous amounts of cash, said one Army officer. "Who'da thunk you could make so much money on them little black seeds?"
Stateside florists find "little market" for Afghani poppies, according to a spokesman for FTD, since they grow just as well in most US climates. Helping Afghani farmers find other cash crops, such as marijuana, or peyote, is the goal of millions of dollars currently being injected into Afghanistan by the United States, Britain and other countries.
Afghani President Hamid Karzai and his ministers claim that Afghanistan has bigger problems, like getting electricity, water, and sewer services restored, than to worry about poppyseed overproduction. Said Karzai, "Like tobacco in the United States, we can try and regulate it, tax it, and pay farmers not to grow it, but we cannot control demand."