Afghan opium cultivation to rise in 2013 - U.N. report

Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:24pm EDT
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By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (Reuters) - Afghan farmers attracted by high prices are likely to cultivate more opium this year, lining the pockets of traffickers and Taliban insurgents alike, a U.N. report said on Monday.

Afghanistan supplies about 90 percent of the world's opium, from which heroin is made, and its poppy-driven economy is helping to fuel the 12-year-long war.

Experts say uncertainty over the future after most foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 could help cause a surge in opium growth as a means of generating cash.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said its latest report indicated a "strong association" between insecurity, lack of agricultural aid, and opium cultivation.

Villages with poor security and those which had not received agricultural help were much more likely to grow poppies in 2013 than those with good security and those which had received aid, it said.

Twelve provinces were forecast to show a rise in opium cultivation this year, according to the report by the Vienna-based UNODC and Afghanistan's Ministry of Counter Narcotics.

They included the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand - strongholds of the Taliban-led insurgency. This would follow a low yield last year caused by poppy disease and bad weather.

Helmand was expected to remain the biggest cultivating province.   Continued...

Afghan farmers work at a poppy field in Jalalabad province May 5, 2012. REUTERS/Parwiz