Afghanistan's opium production hits record high in 2017, U.N. says

VIENNA, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Opium production in Afghanistan reached a record high this year, rising 87 percent compared with last year, after a rapid expansion of the areas used to cultivate poppies, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

In the key findings of its annual Afghanistan opium survey, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said output of opium made from poppy seeds in Afghanistan, the world’s main source of heroin, stands at around 9,000 metric tons this year.

“Increased insurgency and funding to terrorist groups is likely within Afghanistan while more high quality, low cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world, leading to increased consumption,” the UNODC said.

Last year’s report warned that Kabul’s weakening grip on security in many areas was contributing to a collapse in poppy eradication efforts, a method championed by the United States after it led an invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 when the country was under Taliban rule.

This year, provincial governors eradicated around 750 hectares used for poppy cultivation, more than twice as much as last year. But areas under cultivation also hit a record this year at 328,000 hectares, up over 60 percent from last year. Southern and north-eastern regions saw the biggest growth.

The average yield per hectare was also boosted by a 15 percent since last year, according to the report.

In money terms, the farm-gate value of the opium produced was up by over 50 percent at around $1.4 billion, or 7 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated gross domestic product, the UNODC said.

Reporting By Shadia Nasralla, editing by Larry King