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UN says record Afghan opium production fueled by Taliban insurgency, government corruption

UN says record Afghan opium production fueled by Taliban insurgency, government corruption

Afghan opium poppy cultivation has exploded to a new record high this year, with the multibillion dollar trade now fueled by Taliban militants and corrupt officials in President Hamid Karzai's government, a U.N. report said.
Afghanistan has opium growing on 193,000 hectares (477,000 acres) of land, a 17 percent increase from last year's record 165,000 hectares (408,000 acres), according to an annual survey by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.
The country now accounts for 93 percent of the global production of opium, the raw material for heroin, and has doubled its output over the last two years, the report, released Monday, said.
"The situation is dramatic and getting worse by the day," said Antonio Maria Costa, the UNODC's executive director.
"No other country in the world has ever had such a large amount of farmland used for illegal activity, beside China 100 years ago," when it was a major opium producer, Costa said in an interview in Kabul.
The burgeoning drug business casts doubt on the effectiveness of projects funded by the United States and other Western donors to battle the illicit trade.
It also adds pressure on Karzai to consider new ways of curbing an expansion that threatens to turn Afghanistan into a 'narco-state' where some observers warn that groups such as al-Qaida could once again find sanctuary.
Karzai last year rejected U.S. offers to spray this year's crop, after Afghans said the herbicide could affect livestock, crops and water supplies _ fears the U.S. calls unfounded.
Costa said the U.N. supports the government's position, but added that crop eradication was a key element of any strategy to combat its growth.
Afghanistan is on course to produce 8,200 metric tons (9,000 tons) of opium this year, up 34 percent from 6,100 metric tons (6,724 tons) in 2006, Costa said.
The farm-gate value of Afghanistan's annual crop is about US$1 billion (


Updated : 2020-12-05 03:22 GMT+08:00