VIENNA -- Afghanistan produced dramatically more opium in 2006, increasing its yield by nearly 50 percent from a year earlier and pushing global opium production to a new record high, a UN report said today .
The annual report also found that the estimated level of global drug use has remained more or less unchanged for the third year, although cannabis use continues to decline in North America.
Afghanistan's opium production rose from about 4,500 tons in 2005 to 6,700 tons in 2006, the 2007 World Drug Report released by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime said. Opium is the main ingredient for heroin. In 2006, Afghanistan accounted for 92 percent of global illicit opium production, up from 70 percent in 2000 and 52 percent a decade earlier. The higher yields in Afghanistan brought global opium production to a record high of nearly 7,300 tons last year, a 43 percent increase over 2005.
The area under opium poppy cultivation in the country has also expanded, from nearly 257,000 acres in 2005 to more than 407,000 acres in 2006 -- an increase of about 59 percent.
"This is the largest area under opium poppy cultivation ever recorded in Afghanistan," the report said, noting that two-thirds of cultivation was concentrated in the country's south. Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC executive director, said Afghanistan's Helmand province was becoming the world's biggest drug supplier.