Afghan opium production set to rise

After decreasing by 21 per cent in 2005, the cultivated area of opium in Afghanistan, the world’s largest supplier of the drug from which heroin is produced, looks likely to rise this year, a United Nations spokesman said today.

“When respondents were asked, for example, why they were cultivating they pointed to economic factors – poverty being their explanation in many cases,” UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman Adrian Edwards said of a rapid assessment survey recently conducted by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

“Whether in fact that is the cause we don’t know; there are other causes mentioned – pressure from people in the drugs business, all kind of other pressures,” he told a news briefing in Kabul, the capital.

The rapid assessment survey is conducted in advance of the full Opium Survey, published in the autumn each year. The survey, carried out in December and January, shows an increasing trend in poppy cultivation in 13 provinces, a stable trend in 16 and a decrease in three.

“It’s worth bearing in mind that the indications of an increase in cultivation are coming from some provinces only – 13 provinces,” Mr. Edwards said. “I don’t want to downplay the problem, but the vast majority of land in Afghanistan under cultivation for agriculture remains for licit crops, not illegal ones.”

Last year’s report on the 21 per cent decrease warned that the drug problem in the country could remain severe because of renewed insecurity, continued corruption and free opium seed distribution by traffickers. UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said in November that these factors posed “a risk that opium cultivation may not decline any further in 2006.”

From United Nations

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