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Despite Western Efforts, Afghan Opium Crop Hits Record High

The amount of land under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is at a record high, the United Nations said in a report released Wednesday.

Opium production in 2013, meanwhile, rose 49 percent over 2012, according to the 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey. The country is the world's No. 1 poppy producer.

The report's findings come as Western troops prepare to leave Afghanistan in 2014 more than a decade after they deposed the Taliban and attempted to bring stability to the country.

Here are seven takeaways from the report:

1. Cultivation spikes: It amounted to 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres) — a 36 percent increase over last year. The previous record was 193,000 hectares (476,913 acres) set in 2007.

2. Production up: Opium production rose from 3,700 tons last year to 5,500 tons this year. Average yield rose 11 percent.

3. Prices fell: They were down 12 percent this year — mainly due to the increased production.

4. Reasons for the jump: Last year's high opium prices could have driven production this year, but another reason for the jump may be the planned withdrawal of Western troops in 2014, which the U.N. said, "led farmers to try to hedge against the country's uncertain political future."

5. Afghan efforts: The number of provinces that grew poppy rose from 17 in 2012 to 19 this year. Eradication of the crop fell by 24 percent. The country's seizure rate was less than that of other opium-producing countries, and the U.N. said the relatively low number of arrests, prosecutions and convictions of powerful figures remains a concern.

6. Where poppy is grown: The bulk of the production was confined to the south and the west of the country, including Helmand and Kandahar provinces, which are "dominated by insurgency and organized criminal networks."

7. As percentage of GDP: Opium production was 4 percent of the country's gross domestic product of $21.04 billion.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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