• UN: Afghan opium cultivation on the rise

UN: Afghan opium cultivation on the rise

20 November 2012

A new United Nations survey finds that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose by 18 per cent in 2012.

The 2012 Afghanistan Opium Survey from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said the increase occurred despite a significant rise in eradication efforts by the Afghan government.  However, it added that opium production had dropped by 36 per cent over the same period because crops had been damaged by bad weather and disease.

It attributed the rise in cultivation mainly to high opium prices, which encouraged farmers to plant poppy. However, it also called for  a "sustained effort by the Afghan Government and international stakeholders to address illicit cultivation with a balanced approach of development and law enforcement measures".

The UN said the survey's findings confirmed the link between insecurity and opium cultivation, with 95 per cent of cultivation concentrated in the southern and western provinces where insecurity and organised crime were present.  It said the southern province of Helmand accounted for around half of nation's crop.

However, the survey added that in areas of Helmand where farmers had received agricultural assistance during the poppy planting season, less poppies were grown. 

According to UNODC's Executive Director, Yury Fedotov  "Improved living conditions, including greater security and the rule of law should be encouraged... if we are to help poor farming communities to support themselves".

Seventeen Afghan provinces remain poppy-free.