10 Things You Need to Know About Afghanistan's Opium Trade

Field workers harvest poppies in Afghanistan. Most of the country’s illicit crop is grown in Helmand and Kandahar. (AP)

Ninety percent of the world's opium is grown and produced in Afghanistan. Like last year, growers are expecting a bumper crop, which means more heroin and opiates will be available on the illicit market.

1. The poppy plant is used to create opiates, such as opium, heroin and Vicodin. It looks like a tulip. The flowers turn to bright colors when they're ready for harvest.
2. Afghanistan has the world's largest poppy crop: In 2013, a record 209,000 hectares were grown (an increase of 36% from 2012) and 5,500 metric tons of opium were produced.
3. 90% of the world's opium comes from Afghanistan.
4. Most of the crop is grown in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces in the southern part of the country bordering Pakistan.
5. More than 200,000 families are involved in the poppy trade.
6. The U.N. estimates there are more than one million opium and heroin addicts in the country.
7. Opium production in Afghanistan is valued at $3 billion a year, 15% of the country's GNP.
8. The U.S. has spent $7.5 billion trying to eradicate poppies in Afghanistan.
9. The Taliban controls opium production in most of the country.
10. The 2014 harvest is expected to exceed the 2013 harvest.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.