Opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan this year are the highest on record, said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, adding that efforts to eradicate the crop have fallen flat.
“Unfortunately, preliminary results suggest that illicit cultivation has increased well above 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres),” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said on Wednesday., according to the text of a speech prepared for an international conference on Afghanistan in Brussels, Reuters reported.
“The production of opiates is expected to follow the same upward trend,” while eradication efforts have dropped to “close to zero,” Fedotov said.
Presently, 2016 is set to make it into the top three worst years in this regard since the UNODC started tracking information on opium production in Afghanistan in 1994. The largest growing area was detected in 2014, totaling 224,000 hectares.
The total area dedicated to opium production in Afghanistan today stands at 183,000 hectares, which is 19 percent less than last year, when 224,000 hectares were cultivated.
“We need long-term resources, strengthened regional cooperation and the strong political commitment and continued engagement of the Afghan Government and international community,” Fedotov stated.
The reason for such a sharp increase in opium production isn’t clear, but the 2015 report said there is a “high correlation” between the country’s security situation and poppy cultivation.
Afghanistan is one of the world’s biggest drug producers and is constantly monitored by the UNODC.
During the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, which lasted from 1994 to 2001, opium production saw a significant decline.
A successful anti-drug initiative was undertaken in 2000, when Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar collaborated with the UN. Taliban militants introduced a ban on poppy farming that carried a punishment for violators, and opium cultivation in the area was reduced by 90 percent in the Taliban-controlled area.
Some experts suggest that some 40 percent of the Taliban’s funding comes from opium sale, however.