Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Atlantic coast.
Afghanistan success story.
For opium farmers, drug trafficers, organized crime.
Afghan opium crop soars to "frightening levels": UN
KABUL (Reuters) - Opium production has soared to "frightening record levels" in Afghanistan, which now has more land producing drugs than Columbia, Bolivia and Peru combined, the United Nations said on Monday.
Afghanistan is locked in a vicious circle where drug money feeds both the Taliban insurgency and official corruption which in turn weaken the government's hold of large parts of the country and allows more opium to be produced.
The area of Afghan land where opium poppies are grown rose by 17 percent to 193,000 hectares in 2007 from 165,000 last year and this year's harvest was 8,200 tonnes, up from 6,100 tonnes in 2006, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said.
Afghanistan produced 93 percent of the world's opium in 2007, up from 92 percent last year, the annual UNODC report said.
"No other country has produced narcotics on such a deadly scale since China in the 19th century," a UNODC statement said.
Most Afghan opium is processed to make heroin and smuggled out of the country to Europe and the Middle East where it fuels addiction and crime.
Opium production in Afghanistan is concentrated in the south of the country where the Taliban insurgency is most virulent.
"Some 80 percent of opium poppies were grown in a handful of provinces along the border with Pakistan, where instability is greatest," the UNODC said.
The southern province of Helmand, where mostly British troops are engaged in almost clashes with Taliban rebels, produced more than half of Afghanistan's opium crop.
"Helmand has single-handedly become the world's biggest source of illicit drugs, surpassing the output of entire countries like Colombia (coca), Morocco (cannabis), and Myanmar (opium) which have populations up to 20 times larger," said the UNODC.