KABUL: Opium production in Afghanistan has increased by 43 per cent in the past one year, United Nations (UN) and Afghan government officials have said.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on Sunday that Afghan opium cultivation increased by 10 per cent in 2016 compared to the same time in 2015 due to favorable weather, growing insecurity and declining international support for counter-narcotic operations.

“The cultivation has increased by 10 per cent this year compared to the same time in 2015 — from 183,000 hectares to 201,000 hectares,” said Minister for Counter-Narcotics Salamat Azimi.

The report further says that no eradication took place in provinces with high levels of opium poppy cultivation due to the poor security situation in those areas, as well as logistical and financial challenges.

The volatile province of Helmand remained the country’s top poppy cultivating province, followed by Badghis, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Nangarhar and Farah provinces.

Officials worry about transferring drugs production machines from foreign countries to Afghanistan.

“Some opportunist elements have recently transferred drug production machines from outside of the country into Afghanistan which is why we have witnessed a 10pc increase in opium cultivation,” Azimi said in a joint news conference with UN officials in Kabul.

General Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, deputy interior minister for the counter narcotic police, said that government forces conducted 1,263 operations during the last seven months, in which they arrested 1,408 opium traffickers and confiscated over 237 tonnes of opium.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium and is witnessing a sharp increase in production and cultivation of the substance due to increased insecurities, weather and declining international support for counter-narcotic operations.