By Shadi Khan Saif
Illegal poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has surged by 10 percent, the country’s Counter-Narcotics Ministry said Saturday.
Ministry spokesman Mohammad Hanif told reporters in Kabul that besides the traditional areas of poppy cultivation in the country’s south and southwest, the northern province of Badghes has fueled much of this year’s surge in illegal poppy cultivation.
“The fall in poppy cultivation that we ensured in a number of provinces last year was negatively influenced by up to 17,000 hectares of poppy cultivation in Badghes this year,” he said.
Traditionally, the restive southern belt including the Helmand, Kandahar, Farah, and Nimroz provinces contributed immensely to the stockpiles of poppies cultivated in Afghanistan, but with northern Afghanistan growing ever more insecure, large poppy farms are also emerging there in areas under the influence of militants.
Last year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said poppy was cultivated on around 201,000 hectares of land across Afghanistan. According to the office, the illicit proceeds of trafficked Afghan opiates total some $28 billion.