UN: Record Afghan opium production fueled by Taliban

Afghan opium poppy cultivation has exploded to a new record high this year, with the multibillion dollar trade now fueled by Taliban militants and corrupt officials in President Hamid Karzai's government, a UN report said Monday. Afghanistan has opium growing on 193,000 hectares (477,000 acres) of land, a 17 percent increase from last year's 165,000 hectares (408,000 acres), the previous a record, according to an annual survey by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. The country now accounts for 93 percent of the global production of opium, the raw material for heroin, and has doubled its output since two years ago, the report said. "The situation is dramatic and getting worse by the day," said Antonio Maria Costa, the UNODC's executive director. "No other country in the world has ever had such a large amount of farmland used for illegal activity, beside China 100 years ago," when it was a major opium producer, Costa said in an interview in Kabul.