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New controversy over heroin crop
By Joe Murphy, Whitehall Editor, Evening Standard
27 May 2003

Ministers are braced for controversy after being warned of a massive leap in heroin production in Afghanistan this year.

Narcotics experts forecast a record poppy harvest this summer - and the disclosure will be embarrassing to Tony Blair, as he promised the war against the Taliban would eradicate the scourge.

It follows criticism of the failure to locate weapons of mass destruction after the war against Iraq.

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The poppy harvest begins this month and lasts until autumn. Monitoring of illegal planting suggests production will hit an all-time high. Poppy is turned into opium, the raw material of heroin.

Precise production figures are unknown because much of the growing is in remote areas unsafe for United Nations anti-drugs inspectors. But a UN Office of Drugs and Crime survey of seed planting this year warned that more and more regions are planting poppy.

Out of 134 districts surveyed, 23 were growing poppy for the first time. Another 50 were planning " increases" or " large increases" in production, the report said.

By contrast only 28 districts were thought to be reducing output and 20 showed no change. The figures point to a surge in production - and a flood of cheap heroin on the streets of Britain. More than 90 per cent of heroin sold here already comes from Afghanistan.

Adam Bouloukos, deputy head of the UN anti-drugs team based in Kabul, said many of the growing areas were driven into the heroin trade by poverty and he urged greater economic support from the international community.

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