Afghanistan's opium production soaring, says UN

Afghanistan’s opium production has risen by an estimated 43% this year, the UN has said.

The annual increase on 2015 levels was due in part to estimated growth of 10% in the area under cultivation, the said, from 183,000 to 201,000 hectares.

The UNODC said estimated opium production in 2016 was 4,800 tons, underscoring a “worrying reversal” in efforts to combat .

Afghan cultivation has been rising in the past decade, despite dropping last year due to a drought, fuelling the Taliban insurgency and a drug addiction crisis, despite .

The statistics represent the third-highest level of cultivation in Afghanistan in two decades, following .

Officials said favourable weather, rising insecurity and a decline in international donor support were the main reasons for the increase in cultivation, driven by a higher opium yield per hectare.

that 93% of the cultivation took place in southern, western and eastern parts of Afghanistan, the world’s biggest producer of opium.

Regions cultivated the most opium, including Helmand and Kandahar.

Baz Muhammad Ahmadi, Afghanistan’s deputy minister for counter-narcotics, said: “I believe with the existing equipment, facilities and civilian taskforce, we cannot fight the cultivation of poppy in insecure areas.

“The challenges of deteriorating security in different parts of the country took away the opportunities to destroy poppy farms.”

Eradication efforts in appear to have collapsed, with 355 hectares of poppy elimination carried out this year, a 91% decline on 2015.

The UNODC report said: “In 2016, farmers’ resistance against poppy-eradication operations was occasionally expressed through direct attacks on eradication teams.

“No eradication took place in the provinces with high levels of opium poppy cultivation due to the extremely poor security situation in those areas and logistical/financial challenges to organise the eradication teams on time.”

Poppy farmers in Afghanistan are often taxed by the Taliban, which uses the cash to help fund its insurgency against government and Nato forces.

Ahmadi said: “Most of the conflicts in Afghanistan are financed by income from poppy. Anywhere you see poppy in Afghanistan, you see fighting there.”

Despite billions of dollars having been spent on counter-narcotics measures in the past decade, there have been few visible effects on production or cultivation. Meanwhile, addiction levels among Afghans have risen sharply.

Source : theguardian[dot]com