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Opium production increases by 61 prc in 2011 – UNODC Ex-Dir

October 17, 2011, 16:00 UTC+3

The area of illegal plantations of opium poppy grew by 7 percent this year in Afghanistan and reached 131,000 hectares

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BAKU, October 17 (Itar-Tass) — Opium production increased by 61 percent in the world in 2011, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said on Monday.

Fedotov is taking part in an international conference devoted to the fight against illicit drug trafficking currently underway in Baku.

According to the U.N. official, opium poppies cultivation in Afghanistan has increased. “Last year opium poppies were hit by a fungus that led to reducing the cultivation. This inflicts the price rise and naturally, peasants have more motives to cultivate opium poppies,” he said.

In his view, Azerbaijan and other countries have to face the increased inflow of drugs from Afghanistan. That is why it is necessary to join efforts to fight drug transit, including in regional formats, Fedotov stressed.

He said the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime was planning to launch a new programme for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries soon. “We’ll deal with the Afghan drug problem on a regional basis,” the executive director noted.

He expressed hope that Afghanistan would make contribution to implementing this programme.

Representatives of 42 countries and seven international organisations, including the World Customs Organisation, take part in the conference.

According to the UNODC report, which was circulated earlier, opium output was growing in Afghanistan, and its price was going up.

The area of illegal plantations of opium poppy grew by 7 percent this year in Afghanistan and reached 131,000 hectares. The opium output grew from 3,600 tons in 2010 to 5,800 in the current year. Profits coming from the illegal production of opium, considering the current purchasing prices, will amount to 1.4 billion dollars this year, which makes 9 percent of the gross domestic product.

According to the report, the illegal production of opium and heroin continues to be a rather profitable business and an important component part of the Afghan economy. It promotes a further destabilisation of the situation in the country and boosts corruption. Aside from it, the number of opium addicts is growing in Afghanistan itself. At present they account for 2.65 percent of the population, while the figure for 2005 was 1.4 percent.

The ministry for fighting drug trafficking and the special anti-drug police unit of Afghanistan are conscientiously doing their job and are taking measures for improving the situation, Fedotov said. “At the same time, those two agencies should step up the confiscation of narcotics and should reduce the area of illegal plantations of opium poppy. This year the area of the destroyed poppy plantations grew by 65 per cent, but it makes only 3 percent of the overall area of illegal poppy plantations,” he added.

“On the whole, the report on the production of opium in Afghanistan, which was circulated on Tuesday, is a serious warning. We cannot permit ourselves to be indifferent to the problem. We should take resolute action, should work together on the national and international levels,” he continued. In this connection Fedotov supported the initiatives, aimed at promoting cooperation in fighting illegal drug trafficking, and at establishing control over precursors (chemicals, which are used for the production of narcotics).

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov strongly criticized the U.S. authorities’ unwillingness to destroy poppy fields in Afghanistan.

“It’s difficult to perceive why our American partners do not want the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to engage in this (in destroying poppy fields),” the Russian minister said.

“This issue has already been remaining unresolved for several years, while this is the key issue in the fight against drug trafficking and as a result against the spread of HIV/AIDS,” he said.

“The tragedy of this situation is that in Europe young people from a well-to-do social environment become victims of the disease (AIDS) as a result of the spread of drug addiction,” Lavrov said expressing confidence that “it is necessary to counteract not only drug abuse but also the spread.”

“We attach special importance to strong and radical increase in the efficiency of efforts of the international community in the fight against drug threat emanating from Afghanistan,” he said.

“Over the past ten years the production and export of drugs from Afghanistan increased several times over to all possible markets – Central Asia, the CIS, Europe and something is trafficked to the United States as well,” the diplomat said referring to the U.S. arguments saying that destruction of Afghanistan’s poppy fields would not resolve the problem as would create difficulties for agricultural producers.

Afghan global drug trafficking poses the biggest threat to the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), Director of Russia's Federal Service for Control of Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (FSKN) Viktor Ivanov said.

“The biggest threats is coming from Afghan global drug trafficking that contributes to continuous cartelisation of organised criminal groups in Central Asia and their merger with real politics in the region,” Ivanov said last July.

“Moreover, three years ago Afghanistan became the world’s indisputable leader in the production of hashish, leaving Morocco well behind. The amount of hashish supplied to Russia alone has increased 12 times since then,” he said.

“Destructive effects for international security from global drug trafficking as targeted, intensive and large-scale phenomena can be classified into five key groups,” Ivanov said.

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