A Sweet Solution to the Afghani Drug Trade

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Los Angeles company proposes a crop rotation for Afghani poppy farmers.

Los Angeles based Steviva Brands, Inc. believes they have the solution to the Afghani drug trade. Steviva has been in the stevia importation and distribution business since 1998 and business has been sweet. When refined into a white powder extract (stevioside), the sweet leafed herb stevia "Stevia Rebaudiana” becomes 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. The stevia extract powder creates an intense sweet effect upon the taste buds that does not raise blood sugar levels and contains no calories or carbohydrates.

In 2001, the Taliban wiped out opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. But the U.S. led war overthrew the strict Islamic regime leaving behind mostly chaos, and the poppy trade resumed and has begun to flourish. The UN says Afghanistan accounted for about three-quarters of the world's opium in 2003. Exports of opium generated about $2.3 billion US, which was more than half of Afghanistan's gross domestic product. U.S. officials believe Afghanistan could be on pace for a record crop this year.

Steviva President Thom King has proposed that the Afghani’s convert their opium poppy fields to stevia. While stevia is grown around the world, King believes the growing conditions in the Southern part of Afghanistan are perfect for growing stevia and the extraction process which yields the super sweet stevioside is somewhat similar to the process which yields opium from poppies. King is willing to put his money where his mouth is and offer to purchase all the stevia and stevioside extract from the Afghani farmers at fair market value as long as the quality meets his companies strict standards.

In a press conference last week U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "You need a broad effort in Afghanistan to make sure that hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars that people are willing to pay for these destructive drugs does not go into the hands of people who want to also simultaneously destroy democracy."

King recently made a similar offer to Coca farmers in Columbia and Peru. When asked what kind of progress is being made King responded, "It has been going very, very well.” King added “the farmers are very receptive and the respective foreign departments of agricultures have been extremely cooperative as well. And we are hoping for the same with Afghanistan.” According to company officials importation of product could come as soon as 3rd quarter of 2008.

While stevia has been approved by the FDA only as a food supplement, over the past 5 years their stance on the importation of stevia based products has relaxed a bit. In 1991, the FDA issued an import alert which effectively blocked the importation and sale of stevia in this country. That same year a follow-up study found flaws in the original study and subsequently in 1995 the block was lifted. Hence, there should be no foreseeable problems getting stevia from Afghanistan, Peru or Columbia into the US.

Steviva Brand’s business has been booming since the Low Carb, South Beach and Atkins diet craze. The products that Steviva manufactures cater to persons on sugar free or low carb diets that are looking for an all natural sugar alternative.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:    

Stephanie Rosen

Phone: (310) 455.9870

Email: stephanie.rosen@multimediary.com

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