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Last Updated: Monday, 27 August 2007, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Afghanistan opium at record high
By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Kabul

Poppies in Afghanistan - file picture
Afghanistan's opium production has doubled since 2005
Opium production in Afghanistan has soared to record levels, with an increase on last year of more than a third, the United Nations has said.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime report says the amount of opium produced there has doubled in the last two years.

It says Helmand province is now the biggest single drug-producing area in the world, surpassing whole countries such as Colombia.

Afghanistan now accounts for more than 93% of the world's opiates.

Despite billions of dollars of aid and tens of thousands of international troops, the report says 193,000 hectares of opium poppies are being grown in Afghanistan.

'Insurgency link'

"The results are very bad, terrifyingly bad, because cultivation has increased by 17% to an historic level," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the Office on Drugs and Crime.

map

"No other country beside China in the 19th Century ever had such a large amount of land dedicated to illegal activities.

"The province of Helmand in the south has cultivated more opium than in the rest of Afghanistan.

"It has become the largest single entity in terms of both production and cultivation," he said.

Despite the overall increase, twice as many provinces are now drug-free in northern and central Afghanistan.

graphic

The report says growing opium poppies is now closely linked to the insurgency and the instability in the south.

And what is to be done? The report recommends more determined efforts to bring that security.

It urges the government to get tough on corruption, which it says is driving the drugs trade and it lists poor governance, a weak judiciary and failing eradication programmes for these new frightening record levels.


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