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Report: Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan expected to increase

  |   April 15, 2013 at 9:05 AM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, April 15 (UPI) -- Poppy cultivation is expected to increase in most regions in Afghanistan, the 2013 Opium Risk Assessment by a U.N. unit reported.

The 2013 Opium Risk Assessment in Afghanistan's southern, eastern, western and central regions "points to a worrying situation," the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said.

The assessment suggests poppy cultivation was expected to expand in regions where it already existed in 2012 as well as in new areas or in areas where poppy cultivation had stopped.

Villages with a low level of security or which didn't received agricultural assistance in the previous year were more likely to grow poppies in 2013 than villages with good security and that received assistance, the U.N. office based in Vienna, Austria, said.

Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium. Last year it accounted for 75 percent of the world's heroin supply, The New York Times reported.

"The assumption is it will reach again to 90 percent this year," Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the United Nations' top counternarcotics official in Afghanistan, told the Times.

The Risk Assessment indicated the opium-cultivating provinces of Helmand and Kandahar likely would see an increase in opium cultivation because the current high price of opium and to compensate the low opium yield in 2012, the report said. An increase in opium poppy cultivation also expected in a dozen other provinces throughout Afghanistan, the U.N. agency said.

Only in Herat province was cultivation expected to decrease.

The report said at least three provinces -- Balkh, Faryab and Takhar -- could lose their poppy-free status if timely, effective eradication isn't implemented. However, the report said some provinces may gain poppy-free status in 2013 if effective eradication is implemented on time.

The risk assessment indicated a strong association between insecurity, lack of agricultural assistance and opium cultivation still exists.

In the south, west, east and central regions, respondents cited fear of eradication as the reason for not cultivating poppy in 2013. However, in north and northeastern regions, the most frequently given reason for not cultivating opium was "not enough yield in the previous year."

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