(KABUL, Afghanistan) — There was mixed news Tuesday about Afghanistan’s primary cash crop, opium poppies.
Ever since the U.S.-led invasion of the country 11 years ago, farmers have been pushed to grow more benign crops such as wheat, pomegranates or cotton instead of opium poppies that are used to fuel the worldwide heroin trade.
However, a survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics revealed that land under opium cultivation jumped 18 percent in 2012 to 380,000 acres.
Even so, potential opium production was down by 36 percent this year due to bad weather conditions and a poppy blight.
Overall, Afghanistan provides nine-tenths of the world’s opiates, representing a $65 billion profit annually. Of that, Afghan farmers see about $700 million.
Despite this, U.S. military forces leave opium poppy growers alone for fear that any crackdown will spur them to side with the Taliban.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN