Opium cultivation at highest level since 1998: UN

VIENNA: Opium poppy cultivation worldwide has reached its highest level in 16 years with number-one producer Afghanistan growing record amounts despite year-long Western efforts to eradicate the crop, the UN said Thursday.  The area used by farmers in war-torn Afghanistan to cultivate opium poppy — the plant behind the most drug-related deaths worldwide — increased last year by 36 percent, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual drugs report. Myanmar, which together with Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s opium poppy, also saw the cultivated area increase by 13.5 percent. As a result, global poppy cultivation spread to 296,720 hectares (733,210 acres), “the largest area since 1998, when estimates became available,” the UN agency said. This comes despite years of Western-backed efforts to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan, where it is a key contributor to the economy. 

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