Another Huge Opium Harvest in Afghanistan

The United Nations says that cultivation of cannabis, or marijuana, is also on the rise.

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Along with forecasting another near-record opium harvest in Afghanistan this year, the United Nations says that cultivation of cannabis, or marijuana, is also on the rise.

Afghanistan was already one of the world's leading marijuana producers, and farmers in 2007 are estimated to have expanded their cannabis crops by almost 30 percent over 2006. In its latest report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime warns that even more marijuana will likely be grown in 2008.

Meanwhile, the opium news remains grim. While opium production in 2008 might decline slightly from 2007's records levels, the output continues to rise steeply in the southern provinces, which account for 69 percent of the country's total crop. Most of the heroin made from Afghanistan's opium poppies eventually makes it way to Europe, though it is also fueling a rise in heroin addiction—and drug money—in neighboring Pakistan. Heroin trafficking is a major source of money for the insurgent Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

The one spot of good news: 12 provinces remain poppy-free, and another two or three could join their ranks if eradication and prevention efforts continue, says the U.N. report. For now, however, Afghanistan still accounts for more than 90 percent of the world's opium

— Kevin Whitelaw