Afghanistan might be one of the world’s poorest countries, but it's cream of the crop when it comes to producing opium. According to a new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
, the country's production capacity is back on the rise. The potential yield had fallen from 6,400 metric tons in 2014 to 3,300 tons in 2015, but is now back up to 4,800 tons this year. The amount of poppy cropland increased from 183,000 hectares in 2015 to 201,000 hectares in 2016.
58 percent of this year’s potential opium yield comes from the southern region. Most poppy grows in provinces like Helmand and Kandahar, which incidentally are also Taliban strongholds. Also, the secluded eastern province Nangarhar and the western Badghis province bordering Turkmenistan are among the top producers. However, the biggest increases were registered in the formerly calmer provinces in the North. Only 13 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are declared poppy free, according to UNODC.
Like other conflict-ridden countries the example of Afghanistan
goes to show that illicit drugs production and armed conflict go hand in hand to create a vicious circle. On the one hand, it's very hard to enforce counter narcotics operations in restive regions. On the other hand, drug money funds and fuels violent insurrections and further undermines the central government’s ability to effectively rule over large swaths of the country.