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Record opium production in Afghanistan in 2017 

Kabul, Nov 15 (IANS) Opium production in Afghanistan grew by 87 per cent in 2017 to an estimated 9,000 tonnes — a record number that was accompanied by a 63 per cent rise in the area dedicated to poppy cultivation — according to a joint report by the Afghan government and the UN presented on Wednesday in Kabul.

According to the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017, the area under opium poppy cultivation rose to a record 328,000 hectares (810,505 acres) between February and June in the country — the world’s leading opium producer.

“This level of opium poppy cultivation is a new high,” Efe news agency quoted Mark Colhoun, Afghanistan Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which drafted the study in collaboration with the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics.

Regarding the area of cultivation, the new record figure exceeds by 46 per cent the last historical maximum of 224,000 hectares in 2014, according to the survey.

Colhoun warned that in order to deal with these illicit activities, the focus should be on the entire drug business and it should be done “in conjunction with other international experts, and actors as much of the illicit funds arrive from drug trafficking are not located in Afghanistan”.

The rise in opium poppy production in all Afghan provinces is headed by Helmand in the south of the country.

In this province, the area dedicated to this crop has increased by 79 per cent to 63,700 hectares, representing almost half of the total increase in 2017, reaching an area of 144,018 hectares.

Helmand, which has 44 per cent of the country’s cultivated area of opium poppy, is followed by another southern province, Kandahar — the cradle of the Taliban — with a total of 28,010 hectares and an increase of 37 per cent compared to the previous year.

Sixty per cent of opium cultivation is concentrated in the south of the country, traditionally the main area dominated by insurgents, while in the west of the country it is 17 per cent, in the north 13 per cent and in the east seven per cent.

According to this year’s report, the size of the harvested crop per hectare also increased by 27.3 kg compared to the 24 kg recorded in 2016.

“Drugs are the main financial source for the Taliban and international terrorism and (they) fuel insecurity and insurgency in the country,” said Deputy Counter Narcotics Minister Javid Ahmad Qayam in the press conference.

He explained that “lack of facilities is the main challenge in fight against narcotics, Afghanistan alone can’t provide all these facilities”.

Qayam said that cooperation of regional countries is needed to deal with drug trafficking.

Afghanistan is the world’s leading opium poppy producer and in 2012, 75 per cent of the world’s heroin came from there and, according to UN data, the income generated by opium financed 15 per cent of Taliban activities.

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