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Afghan Officials Say Opium Cultivation Rising

A man works in an opium-poppy field in the Maiwand district of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. (file photo)
KABUL -- Afghan officials say illegal opium cultivation in the country has increased this year despite efforts to target traffickers and provide farmers with alternative livelihoods.

Qayum Samir, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Counternarcotics Ministry, told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on April 1 that an estimated 157,000 hectares of land are being illegally used for opium cultivation this spring.

The ministry believes that is about 3,000 hectares more than at the same time last year.

Samir blamed a lack of security and widespread poverty for the rise in opium production.

The spokesman said the ministry has set up special taskforces to eradicate opium farms in four southern and southeastern provinces, including Kandahar, Helmand, Nimruz, and Farah, which are the highest-volume regions for opium production.

The ministry intends to expand the opium eradication to other areas.