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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Afghanistan's opium industry
According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Afghanistan produced more than 70% of the world's opium in 2000, and about 80% of the opiate products in Europe.

In July 2000 the leader of Afghanistan's former Taleban government, Mullah Omar, declared a nationwide ban on opium cultivation for one year.

The United Nations Drugs Control Program (UNDCP) believes the ban was a success, and production plunged to negligible levels during 2001.

But with the demise of the Taleban, there are fears Afghanistan will quickly reclaim its status as the world's largest producer of illicit opium.

The UNDCP provides estimates of the level of opium poppy cultivation per region by conducting a census of farmers on the ground.

Opium cultivation and processing is most extensive in the south of the country, in particular Helmand province.

Laboratories convert the raw opium into a morphine base, white heroin or one of three grades of brown heroin.

This is then transported through a number of intermediate countries - where it is sometimes further refined and processed - before being shipped on to Europe and North America.

heroin factory
Makeshift factories synthesise the heroin from opium sap

In the past, a large number of laboratories were located across the border in Pakistan's tribal region, but a Pakistani Government crackdown has forced many of these to relocate across the border.

Afghanistan also produces a large amount of hashish - a processed form of cannabis - which is mainly transported through Pakistan and the Central Asian republics.

See also:

21 Feb 02 | South Asia
UN concern over Afghan drug revival
04 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The heroin trail
30 Sep 01 | South Asia
West fears heroin flood
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