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UN: Afghan Opium Production Down 48%

FILE - In this May 10, 2013 file photo, Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Wednesday that the amount of opium produced in Afghanistan during the current year dropped by 48 percent.

"We have 3,300 tons of opium production this year as compared to 6,400 tons last year," UNODC regional representative Andrey Avetisyan,told reporters in Kabul.

The UNODC attributed the dramatic drop to better cooperation between enforcement agencies and Afghan policy makers. The low production can also be attributed to a reduction in area under cultivation, but more importantly to a drop in opium yield per hectare, according the findings of the survey.

The reductions are significant following years of steady increase in the cultivation and production of opium in the country.

Avetisyan added that while opium cultivation in 2015 also went down by 19 percent across the country, it increased in northern Afghanistan because of the deterioration of security in some places.

Helmand remains the biggest poppy producing province, but recorded a 16 percent drop since last year. There were also reductions in Kandahar, Kapisa, Zabul, Farah, Nimoroz, Herat, Nangarhar, Laghman and Badkhashan.

He underscored that the Afghan drug problem remains enormous, and success in tackling it can be achieved only by close cooperation between the government and the international community.

"But the purpose of today's press conference is to bring to you the good news the numbers of the 2015 poppy cultivation survey that show significant decrease of both cultivation and production," Avetisyan said.

The UNODC official called for intensifying efforts to further reduce and eliminate drug production in Afghanistan.

"We hope very much that the security situation in the country will stabilize, which will help us together with the Afghan government to more successfully fight against narcotics in Afghanistan," he said.

Afghanistan produces more than 80 percent of the world's illicit opium and experts believe income from the illegal trade fuels the Taliban insurgency.

U.S. officials also blame the poppy production for fueling Afghan corruption and insecurity and undermining legal economy.

The United States has spent $7.6 billion to help counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan since 2001.

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