Afghanistan saw a 10 per cent jump in opium cultivation this year because of bumper harvests, collapsing eradication efforts due to growing insecurity and declining international aid to combat drugs, the United Nations (UN) said on Sunday.
Cultivation dropped last year due to drought but it has been on the rise in the past decade, fuelling the Taliban insurgency and spurring a growing crisis of drug addiction despite costly U.S.-led counter-narcotics programmes. “The cultivation has increased by 10 percent this year compared to the same time in 2015 — from 183,000 hectares to 201,000 hectares,” counter-narcotics minister Salamat Azimi told reporters while releasing the UN report. The statistics represent the third-highest level of cultivation in Afghanistan in more than two decades — after a record high in 2014 and 2013.
Ninety-three per cent of the cultivation took place in the southern, western and eastern parts of the country, the report said. The southern restive Province of Helmand remained the country’s top poppy-cultivating province, followed by Badghis, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Nangarhar and Farah — all hotbeds of insurgent activity. — AFP