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Opium prices soar in Afghanistan, UN says

The price of opium in Afghanistan rose dramatically in 2011, up 133 percent from 2010.

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An opium poppy farmer scores during harvest at Maranjan village in Helmand province in Afghanistan, Opium poppies are still the major crop for many farmers and a big source of income for the Taliban despite expensive efforts to stamp out cultivation. (Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images)

The price of opium in Afghanistan rose dramatically in 2011, a UN report released Thursday has found. 

The 2011 Afghan Opium Survey, an annual report done by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Ministry of Counter Narcotics, found that opium trafficking in Afghanistan saw a 133 percent increase in value from 2010.  Income from the drug amounted to over $1.4 billion, or 9 percent of the country's total GDP, according to the United Nations

Prices began to go up in 2010 after the poppy crop was hit by a fungal disease, BBC News reported

More from GlobalPost: Opium farmers take a hit

Yury Fedotov, the head of the UNODC, told the BBC that opium helped fund the Taliban insurgency and fuelled corruption in Afghanistan.

“The Afghan Opium Survey 2011 sends a strong message that we cannot afford to be lethargic in the face of this problem," said Mr. Fedotov. "We thank the Government of Afghanistan for the leadership and dedication already shown, but a stronger commitment from a broad range of national and international partners is needed to turn this worrying trend around.” 

Around 90 percent of the world's opium comes from Afghanistan, according to the UN. The high price of opium means poppy cultivation is still a lucrative business for Afghan farmers, especially since the price of wheat has dropped, AFP reported. Last year, opium generated 11 times more revenue for Afghan farmers than wheat.

Three provinces which had been declared "poppy-free," or estimated to have less than 100 hectares of opium cultivation — Kapisa in the east, and Baghlan and Faryab in the north — are once again hotspots for poppy cultivation, BBC reported.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/120112/opium-prices-soar-afghanistan-un-says