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UN drug control agency reports sharp drop in Afghanistan's poppy cultivation

UN drug control agency reports sharp drop in Afghanistan's poppy cultivation

Opium production in Afghanistan dropped sharply this year, according to the results of a major survey released today by the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP).

The survey found that in Afghanistan, 185 metric tonnes of raw opium were produced this year - 94 per cent less than in 2000. Preliminary data for 2001 suggests that this year's steep reduction has not been offset by increases in other areas or countries. "The reductions are clearly the result of the implementation of the opium poppy ban," UNDCP said.

The area under cultivation in 2001 was estimated to be 7,606 hectares - a 91 per cent decrease from last year's estimate of 82,172 hectares, according to the survey. Helmand, which had 42,853 hectares of poppy cultivation last year, recorded none in the 2001 season. Nangarhar, the second highest cultivating province last year with 19,747 hectares, is reported to have only 218 this year.

The survey also documented an increase in poppy cultivation in certain areas, mainly Badakhshan, which UNDCP said last year cultivated 2,458 hectares, compared to 6,342 in 2001. "Although the increase in Badakhshan is cause for concern, it needs to be seen in the perspective of a 91 per cent decrease in cultivation in the country," the agency noted.

The annual survey is a ground-based census which visits all villages known to have cultivated poppy in the past, or which have recently commenced poppy cultivation. UNDCP has been carrying out its yearly surveys since 1994. In 2001, 10,030 villages in 160 districts in 23 provinces were covered, making this year's survey more comprehensive than previous editions.