Survey: Afghanistan opium production up by 87 percent

FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2017 file photo, Afghan health workers and security personnel conduct a campaign to collect suspected drug users in Kabul, Afghanistan. A joint survey by the Afghan government and the United Nation released Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, shows that the opium production in Afghanistan has increased by 87 percent in 2017, compared with 2016 levels. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
File - In this April 17, 2014, an Afghan farmer works on a poppy field collecting the green bulbs swollen with raw opium, the main ingredient in heroin, in the Khogyani district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. A joint survey by the Afghan government and the United Nation shows that the opium production in Afghanistan has increased by 87 percent in 2017, compared with 2016 levels. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
FILE - In this April, 14, 2017, file photo, an Afghan man walks through a poppy field in the Surkhroad district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. A joint survey by the Afghan government and the United Nation shows that the opium production in Afghanistan has increased by 87 percent in 2017, compared with 2016 levels. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
File - In this Oct. 24, 2017, file photo, an Afghan health worker escorts a suspected drug addict during a campaign to collect drug users in Kabul, Afghanistan. A joint survey by the Afghan government and the United Nation shows that the opium production in Afghanistan has increased by 87 percent in 2017, compared with 2016 levels. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
FILE - In this March 31, 2017 file photo, a man walks in an opium field in Sorkhrud district of eastern Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. A joint survey by the Afghan government and the United Nation released Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, shows that the opium production in Afghanistan has increased by 87 percent in 2017, compared with 2016 levels. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's opium production has almost doubled this year compared to 2016, while areas that are under poppy cultivation rose by 63 percent, according to a new joint survey released Wednesday by the United Nations and the Afghan government.

The production increased by 87 percent and stands at a record level of 9,000 metric tons (9,921 U.S. tons) so far in 2017, compared to the 2016 levels of 4,800 metric tons (5,291 U.S. tons).

Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said the area under opium poppy cultivation has also increased to a record 328,000 hectares (810,488 acres) in 2017, up 63 percent compared with the 201,000 hectares (496,671 acres) that cultivated the poppy in 2016.

"It is high time for the international community and Afghanistan to reprioritize drug control, and to acknowledge that every nation has a shared responsibility for this global problem," UNODC's Executive Director Yury Fedotov was quoted as saying in the statement.

The increase in production is mainly result of the increase in the area under poppy cultivation, while an increase in opium yield also contributed. The largest increase in yields came in the south, where the average yield grew by 19 percent. In the country's north-eastern region, the yield from the opium poppy rose by 14 percent, the statement said.

Also, the survey said the number of poppy-free provinces in the country decreased from 13 to 10, with Ghazni, Samangan and Nuristan province also becoming poppy growing regions, raising the number of those cultivating the poppy from 21 to 24 provinces in the country.

Afghanistan is the world's top cultivator of the poppy from which opium and heroin are produced. The 2017 record levels of opium production and poppy cultivation create multiple challenges for the country, its neighbors and the many other countries that are transit for or destination of Afghan opiates.

The Taliban, who have been waging war against the Afghan government since 2001, are heavily involved in poppy cultivation and opium distribution, especially in areas under their control. They have stepped up their attacks against Afghan security forces in northern region of the country and elsewhere over the past year.

In 2017, government-organized poppy eradication took place in 14 provinces, compared to seven provinces in 2016. During the latest eradication campaign, six people were killed and eight were wounded in attacks by Taliban as well as drug traffickers.

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