Opium Production on the Rise in Afghanistan

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 10:20 am (UTC-5)
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The United Nations says opium production is on the rise in Afghanistan, as financial insecurity and high opium prices lead more farmers to grow illicit poppies.

In a survey released Tuesday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says production will increase more than 60 percent this year compared to last.

UNODC also said cultivation of the opium poppy jumped 7 percent this year compared to 2010. The increase came despite the fact that crop eradication was 65 percent higher than a year ago.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, which has helped fund the country’s insurgency.

This year’s increase in production was expected since a plant disease killed much of the poppy crop last year .

The blight contributed to the high price of opium last year, which more than doubled to $10,700 from $4,900 in 2009.

Tuesday’s UNODC report says 17 Afghan provinces are poppy-free this year, down from 20 last year. Baghlan and Faryab provinces in the north, and Kapisa province in the east, lost their “poppy-free” status this year.

The report said the largest areas of cultivation remained concentrated in Afghanistan’s insecure south and west, confirming a direct link between poppy cultivation and the Taliban insurgency.

UNODC country head Jean-Luc Lemahieu said Tuesday that farmers made $1.4 billion from opium in 2011, or 9 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product. Lemahieu said that, based on the figure, insurgents could potentially receive $700 million this year.