Afghanistan's opium poppy crop bigger than ever

| Mon Jul. 3, 2006 4:08 PM EDT

What a difference a week makes. On June 26 word came from the U.N. that opium cultivation in Afghanistan was down by a fifth in 2005. Some claimed this as vindication of the U.S. drug interdiction strategy there; others noted the same U.N. report pointed to a likely surge in production this year.

Today, this (Independent):

In 2004, about 130,000 hectares of opium poppy was cultivated, which has been the largest so far, despite poor growing conditions that year. Better conditions across the country this year will help produce the largest tonnage of opium ever. But Afghanistan is already responsible for about 87 per cent of the world's opium and more than 90 per cent of the heroin consumed in Britain.

Hamid Karzai, the President, and his government announced last year ajihad on poppy production, backed by a near-$1bn campaign, led by the UK. It led to a fall by 21 per cent drop in the area under cultivation. Those gains have now been wiped out. [Italics mine]

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