• Afghan opium production moves towards "record" levels

Afghan opium production moves towards "record" levels

15 April 2013

A new UN report says opium production in Afghanistan has risen for the third consecutive year and is moving towards record levels.

The report, from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), says poppy cultivation has increased in 12 provinces, including the largest poppy growing areas of Helmand and Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.     

The report said increased cultivation in these two provinces had been driven by the unusually high price of opium and farmers' efforts to compensate for the low opium yield of 2012. The southern region is regarded as the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.

According to the UN,  the latest figures indicated “a strong association between insecurity, lack of agricultural assistance and opium cultivation.”

Villages which were insecure, or which had not received agricultural assistance in the past year, it said, were significantly more likely to grow poppy in 2013 than villages which were secure, or which had received assistance.

The latest figures come as the bulk of international forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

According to Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Afghanistan representative for UNODC, people were planting opium as a way of “hedging against an insecure future”.

The report said seven Afghan provinces showed no major change in poppy cultivation, while fourteen others were likely to retain their “poppy free” status.

However, it noted that three provinces- Balkh, Faryab and Takhar - may lose that status “unless timely and effective eradication is implemented in 2013”.

Only one province - Herat - showed a decline in opium poppy cultivation.

To read the full report, click here