Opium cultivation is expected to increase across Afghanistan, and in several areas where the crop had previously been eliminated production has resumed, according to a U.N. report released Monday.
Despite years of efforts by the NATO-led military coalition and the Afghan government, only the western province of Herat is expected to see a decrease in production this year, according to the report. Afghanistan is the world’s main producer of poppy, which is used to make heroin and provides significant funding for insurgent groups.
“The findings of the 2013 Opium Risk Assessment in the Southern, Eastern, Western and Central regions points to a worrying situation,” the report says.
The harvest in two key southern provinces is expected to rebound after disease and poor weather affected cultivation in 2012. Kandahar and Helmand provinces, which make up the heartland of the Taliban, are both expected to see increased cultivation. The two provinces make up the largest opium-producing region in the country and have been far and away the deadliest province for coalition troops over the course of the 11½-year war in Afghanistan.
While the Taliban regime ruled much of Afghanistan prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, poppy production was dramatically slashed. But it rose quickly after 2002 as a result of the warfare, corruption and lawlessness that gripped many parts of the country, and is now estimated to account for about 90 percent of world production of opium.
The report points to insecurity and lack of agricultural assistance as two main factors in the expected bump in cultivation and found that awareness campaigns can be an effective tool to combat opium production.