The latest UN Office on Drugs and Crime report on Afghan opium production says that total opium poppy cultivation did not change between 2009 and 2010, remaining at 123,000 hectares. Ninety-eight per cent was in nine provinces in the south and west of the country, indicating a strong link between insurgency and illicit crop cultivation.
However, total opium production was estimated at 3,600 tonnes, down 48 per cent on last year, due to a disease that affected the crop. In total 20 provinces that were opium-free in 2009 remained so this year.
Income to farmers from the crop amounted to $604 million, up from £438 million last year. The reason for the increase in price was the crop disease mentioned above. With smaller amounts of opium available, the price rose. With wheat prices also falling, it meant that the discrepancy between opium and wheat prices - at 6:1 - grew wider, which could encourage more farmers to return to opium production in future.
Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, on launching the report in Vienna today, said "We need a broader strategy to support farmers throughout Afghanistan by providing them with access to markets and a secure environment. Stability and security, combined with sustainable alternative development opportunities, will give farmers the chance to make a living without resorting to opium poppy cultivation".