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Report: Afghan opium trade flourishing

Jan. 14, 2011 at 9:39 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- The government of Afghanistan is fighting a losing battle against drugs because of soaring street prices for heroin and opium derivatives, a minister said.

Mohammed Azhar, deputy minister for counter-narcotics, told The Washington Post despite the 10-year occupation by NATO troops fighting the Muslim extremist Taliban and al-Qaida factions, peasant farmers are still growing poppies to feed the drug market.

"The price of opium is now seven times higher than wheat, and there is a $58 billion demand for narcotics, so our farmers have no disincentive to cultivate poppy," Azhar said. "We have gotten a lot of help but it is not enough. Afghanistan is still producing 85 percent of the opium in the world, and it is still a dark stain on our name."

In September, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the value of Afghan opium rose from $29 per pound in 2009 to $77 per pound last year, the newspaper said.

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