Costa said the Taliban insurgency in the southern provinces of Afghanistan is playing an active role in the increase of the poppy growth and trade.
He said that there is a notable decrease in poppy cultivation in the northern provinces, but that the increase in the south will largely offset any drop in overall opium production in Afghanistan.
In its 2006 Afghanistan drug report, the UN singled out three provinces -- all in the north -- where poppy cultivation has been eradicated. Costa said that by June 2007 up to 12 provinces may be declared opium-free.
OPIUM FARMING ON THE RISE Despite a nationwide program by the Afghan government to eradicate opium-poppy fields and offer farmers alternative crops, international experts say that the 2006 opium crop will be as much as 40 percent larger than the previous year's. Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium in the world, and the source of as much as 90 percent of Europe's heroin.(more)