By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – Afghan officials claimed on Monday that poppy cultivation has dropped by 20 percent in the country when compared to last year.
Salamat Azimi, minister of counter-narcotics, told a news conference that up to 328,000 hectares of poppy were cultivated last year, but it has dropped to 263,000 hectares this year.
Abdul Jalil Bakhtiar, director for counter-narcotics at the Ministry of Interior, said more than 3,000 operations have been conducted to eradicate poppy cultivation and production throughout the country this year, resulting in the arrest of 3,527 suspects and destruction of 30 drug labs.
Poppy cultivation in the war-ravaged country increased by 87 percent last year in comparison to 2016, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed.
Findings of the ‘Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017’ revealed that despite persistent efforts by the Kabul government and its western allies, area under opium poppy cultivation increased by 63 percent since 2016, reaching a new record high.
Restive Helmand province remains the country’s major opium poppy cultivating province, followed by Kandahar, Badghis, and Faryab provinces.
It is said the global value of poppy cultivated in Afghanistan is in billions of dollars and the Taliban earned up to $200 million from it annually.
The plant is used to create opiates including heroine and morphine.