Afghanistan world's largest producer of illicit opiates

Time (Asia) July 13, 1998 Vol. 152 No. 1
By Hannah Bloch, Islamabad

According to the U.N., 200,000 farmers produced 2,800 tons of dry opium in Afghanistan last year, about 25% more than in 1996. The opium--and heroin, which is manufactured from opium in clandestine, makeshift labs--is officially taxed, generating as much as $20 million a year in revenue. Until alternative crops can be introduced, Taliban officials argue, poppy cultivation is an economic necessity for the war-ravaged country's desperately poor farmers. Afghanistan is currently the world's largest producer of illicit opiates, according to the U.N., as well as the source of about 80% of Europe's heroin market and 15% to 20% of North America's.

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