UN: Opium Production on Rise in Afghanistan

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 4:10 pm (UTC-5)
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The United Nations says Afghanistan's opium production may rise by more than two-thirds this year compared to last, as financial insecurity and high opium prices lead more farmers to grow illicit poppies.

In a survey released Tuesday, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime also said cultivation of the opium poppy jumped 7 percent in 2011. It said the increase came despite the fact that crop eradication was 65 percent higher than a year ago.

The UNODC warned the resulting increase in profits will translate into even more money to fund insurgent groups in the war-torn country. It also urged Afghanistan's neighbors, including Pakistan and Iran, to uproot networks that facilitate drug trafficking. Most of Afghanistan's drug exports are smuggled through both countries.

Afghanistan has long been the world's leading supplier of opium, providing more than 80 percent of the global output. According to U.N. estimates, Afghanistan's role in a $66 billion world opium trade brings in up to $2 billion a year — or 9 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

Tuesday's UNODC report said at least one million Afghan families are affected by addiction to opium-related drugs, and the number is growing.

It said three Afghan provinces — Baghlan and Faryab in the north, and Kapisa 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.