Afghan Opium Production Up for Third Year Running

By Victoria Kim 04/15/13

Poppy cultivation is set to hit a "record high," says the UN, amid fears of "the world's first true narco-state."

Is Afghanistan becoming a "narco-state"?
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Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is up for the third year in a row and heading towards a record high, according to a new UN report. The Afghanistan Opium Risk Assessment 2013, issued by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, attributes the increase to opium's rising price, making it an even more attractive crop for farmers. The figure for 2013 is expected to surpass the 154,000 hectares planted in 2012, according to the report. Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, accounting for about 75% of the global supply last year. "The assumption is it will reach again to 90% this year," says Jean-Luc Lemahieu, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan. "We are looking at a record high cultivation."

Lemahieu was recently interviewed for The Fix's exclusive report on the heroin addiction crisis within Afghanistan, which has an estimated 1 million addicts. Earlier this month, the UN also estimated that 1 million deaths worldwide have been caused by Afghan heroin since the US-led "War on Terror" began in 2001, while opium production has increased 40 times. Over 70% of Afthan opium is produced by just three provinces. US troops have attempted to subdue the Taliban influence and find alternative crops for these regions' farmers. But after the end of the three-year "surge" in 2012, poppy cultivation has soared. It may be that people are turning to illicit markets in greater numbers in anticipation of the predicted withdrawal of foreign forces—and cash—in 2014. "This country is on its way to becoming the world's first true narco-state," says an anonymous international law enforcement official. “The opium trade is a much bigger part of the economy already than narcotics ever were in Bolivia or Colombia.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr