Every year the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the Afghan Government, produces the Afghanistan Opium Survey. This survey provides information on the location and extent of opium cultivation, potential opium production, opium eradication efforts and the socio-economic situation of families in rural areas. Each annual report offers a detailed profile of the current year's opium season and, together with data from previous years, reveals trends in the illicit drug problem. This information is essential for tackling the cultivation and trafficking of a substance that has serious implications for Afghanistan and the international community.
The 2009 Afghanistan Opium Survey identifies several encouraging and a few discouraging changes from the previous year. The good news far outweighs the bad.
For the second year in a row, the area under opium cultivation shrank considerably. In 2009 opium cultivation fell by close to one quarter, down 22% from 2008. Opium cultivation (after eradication) now occupies only 1.6% of agricultural land, or 123,000 hectares (ha), compared to 157,000 ha in 2008. This is the smallest area of land under opium cultivation since 2005. As a result, the country's share of cultivation in major cultivating countries fell to 79% from 84% last year.
Although Afghanistan remains the world's top supplier of opium, it is an increasingly polarized nation and the regional divide of opium cultivation between the troubled south and the relatively stable north deepened in 2009. Most opium cultivation is confined to the south and west - areas dominated by insurgency and organized criminal networks. In 2009, 99% of the total cultivation took place in just seven provinces in the Southern and Western regions, including the most insecure provinces in the country. These seven provinces are Hilmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Day Kundi, Zabul, Farah and Badghis. This reality confirms the link between insecurity and opium cultivation observed since 2007.
The main differences between opium cultivation patterns in 2009 compared to 2008 are: a drastic decrease in cultivation in Hilmand province which contributed the bulk of the overall decrease; a significant increase in opium cultivation in Badghis and Kandahar provinces; and mixed signals from the Eastern region where one province became poppy-free for the first time.