High opium prices lead to increased poppy growth: Muqbil
Although poppy eradication increased by 65 percent this year compared to last year, still the cultivation and production increased by eight percent, Minister of Counternarcotics Zarar Ahmad Muqbil, told a news conference in Kabul.
This year 3,810 hectares of farmland cultivated with poppy crops in18 provinces of the country had been destroyed, he said, without giving figures for 2010.
Last year, farmers grew poppies at their 123 hectares of land and the number increased to 131 hectares this year, he said.
According to Muqbil, the main cause behind the increase in poppy crops was the high prices of opium.
The revenue received from one hectare of land last year was $4,900 (234,171 afghanis), but it increased to id="mce_marker"0,700 this year, attracting farmers to cultivate poppy, Muqbil, added.
He said 95 percent of the poppy was cultivated in violence-hit provinces, including Helmand, Nangarhar, Kunar, Kandahar, Uuzgan, Nimroz, Farah and Badghis.
A United Nations report released on Tuesday said opium production in Afghanistan rose by 61 percent this year compared with 2010.
The increase has been attributed to rising opium prices that have driven farmers to expand cultivation of the illicit opium poppy by 7 percent in 2011.
Last year, opium production halved largely due to a plant infection which drastically reduced yields.
Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world's opium - 5,800 tonnes this year - the main ingredient of heroin.
Farmers who responded to the survey conducted by United Nations Office and Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), described economic hardships and lucrative prices as the main reasons for the increase.
The counternarcotics minister on the other hand said that farmers in three of the 20 poppy-free provinces, including Baghlan, Faryab and Kapisa, had restarted cultivating poppies in their fields and 100 hectares of land was cultivated this year.
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