"The total area under opium poppy cultivation worldwide is estimated to have increased by some 37 per cent to almost 420,000 ha from 2016 to 2017, primarily reflecting an increase in the cultivation of opium poppy in Afghanistan. With 328,000 ha under opium poppy cultivation, Afghanistan accounted for more than three quarters of the estimated global area under illicit opium poppy cultivation in 2017, a record level.

"By contrast, opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar, the country with the world’s second largest area under opium poppy cultivation (accounting for 10 per cent of the global estimated area in 2017), declined over the period 2015–2017 by some 25 per cent to 41,000 ha, the lowest level since 2010.

"Global opium production increased by 65 per cent to 10,500 tons in 2017, the highest level since UNODC started estimating global opium production on an annual basis at the beginning of the twenty-first century.1 The surge in global production primarily reflects an 87 per cent increase in opium production in Afghanistan to a record high of 9,000 tons, equivalent to 86 per cent of estimated global opium production in 2017. The increase in production in Afghanistan was not only due to an increase in the area under poppy cultivation but also to improving opium yields. There is no single reason for the massive increase in opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2017 as the drivers are multiple, complex and geographically diverse, and many elements continue to influence farmers’ decisions regarding opium poppy cultivation. A combination of events may have exacerbated rule-of-law challenges, such as political instability, corruption, a lack of government control and security. The shift in strategy by the Afghan Government — focusing its efforts on countering anti-government elements in densely populated areas — may have made the rural population more vulnerable to the influence of anti-government elements. A reduction in the engagement of the international aid community may also have hindered socioeconomic development opportunities in rural areas.2

"As a result of the massive increase in opium production in 2017, opium prices fell in Afghanistan by 47 per cent from December 2016 to December 2017. However, the price of high-quality Afghan heroin decreased by just 7 per cent over the same period, which may be an indication that heroin manufacture to date has increased far less than opium production.3 Of the 10,500 tons of opium produced worldwide in 2017, it is estimated that some 1,100–1,400 tons remained unprocessed for consumption as opium, while the rest was processed into heroin, resulting in an estimate of between 700 and 1,050 tons of heroin manufactured worldwide (expressed at export purity), 550–900 tons of which were manufactured in Afghanistan."


World Drug Report 2018. United Nations publication, Sales No. E.18.XI.9.