Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is no longer associated with poverty – quite the opposite.
It works like this: the rich buy political protection, so by default, eradication efforts (though hopelessly half-hearted) fall almost exclusively on the poor, who are forced to convert to "cash crops" for which they have neither the scale nor the technology to compete on the open market. Meanwhile, the sanctioned producers more than pick up the slack, and, having eliminated the local competition, reap outsize profits.
In 2007, Afghanistan cultivated 193,000 hectares of opium poppies, an increase of 17% over last year. The amount of Afghan land used for opium is now larger than the corresponding total for coca cultivation in Latin America (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined).
Favourable weather conditions produced opium yields (42.5 kg per hectare) higher than last year (37.0 kg/ha). As a result, in 2007 Afghanistan produced an extraordinary 8,200 tons of opium (34% more than in 2006), becoming practically the exclusive supplier of the world’s deadliest drug (93% of the global opiates market). Leaving aside 19th century China, that had a population at that time 15 times larger than today’s Afghanistan, no other country in the world has ever produced narcotics on such a deadly scale.
On aggregate, Afghanistan’s opium production has thus reached a frighteningly new level, twice the amount produced just two years ago.