Poppy cultivation up by record 36pc: UN
The 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey, released today in Kabul by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Ministry of Counter Narcotics, said opium production amounted to 5,500 tonnes since 2012.
Last year, the area under poppy cultivation increased to a record 209,000 hectares from the 2011 total of 154,000 hectares -- higher than the peak of 193,000 hectares reached in 2007.
Balkh and Faryab provinces lost their poppy-free status, leaving 15 provinces poppy-free this year, compared with 17 in 2012. Despite a drop, opium prices continued to attract farmers at around id="mce_marker"45 per kilogram.
UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov warned the situation posed a threat to health, stability and development in Afghanistan and beyond. "What is needed is an integrated, comprehensive response to the drug problem."
Counter-narcotics efforts must be a key element of the security, development and institution-building agenda, he stressed, characterising the news as sobering.
Priced at $950 million, or 4 percent of national GDP in 2013, the farm-gate value of opium production increased by almost a third. Together with profits made by traffickers, the total value of the opium economy in Afghanistan was notably higher.
With the illicit economy expected to grow, a slowdown of the legal economy is predicted in 2014, when foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave the country.
Fedotov said: "As we approach 2014 and the withdrawal of international forces from the country, the results of the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2013 should be taken for what they are: a warning and an urgent call to action," said the UNODC chief.
According to the report, the link between insecurity and opium cultivation was still evident in 2013 -- almost 90 percent of cultivation in 2013 remained confined to nine provinces in the restive southern and western regions.
Dubbed as the world's drug capital, Helmand expanded the area under cultivation by 34 percent, followed by Kandahar, which saw a 16 percent rise. Badakhshan witnessed a 25 per cent fall in cultivation.
The number of casualties also went up significantly during the 2013 eradication campaigns, with 143 people killed this year, compared with 102 fatalities in 2012.
Fedotov said: "If the drug problem is not taken more seriously, the virus of opium will further reduce the resistance of its host, already suffering from dangerously low immune levels due to fragmentation, conflict, patronage, corruption and impunity."
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