VIENNA — Production of opium and the illicit crop's value soared in Afghanistan last year, the United Nations said in a report released Thursday.
According to the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime, farmer income derived from Afghanistan's opium crop in 2011 was $1.4 billion (1.09 billion euros), representing nine percent of GDP.
"Opium is therefore a significant part of the Afghan economy and provides considerable funding to the insurgency and fuels corruption," Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UN office, said in a statement.
Afghanistan grows about 90 percent of the world's opium. The UN said poppy-crop cultivation covered more than 131,000 hectares in 2011, up seven per cent from the previous year.
The overall opium crop increased by 61 per cent, from 3,600 metric tons in 2010 to 5,800 metric tons in 2011.
The value of the opium yield rose 133 percent from 2010, when plant diseases killed much of the Afghan crop.
The high price of opium means poppy cultivation remains an attractive proposition for Afghan farmers.
Compounding the problem is a drop in the price of wheat. Last year opium generated 11 times more revenue for Afghan farmers than wheat.
"A stronger commitment from a broad range of national and international partners is needed to turn this worrying trend around," Fedetov said.
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