A report released September 2 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has good news and bad news about narcotics cultivation and trafficking in Afghanistan. The good news is that 800,000 Afghan farmers have stopped cultivating poppies; the bad is that those who continue to grow illicit crops are becoming more efficient, and traders are forging stronger ties with criminal and insurgent groups, as well as corrupt officials.
The UNODC report, titled Afghan Opium Survey 2009, documents a decline in opium cultivation in Afghanistan for the second consecutive year, dropping by as much 22 percent since 2008. Prices for opiates are also at a 10-year low. But, signaling improved efficiency, the production of narcotics from poppy plants was down only 10 percent.
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Aunohita Mojumdar is an Indian freelance journalist based in Kabul. She has reported on the South Asian region for the past 19 years.