KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan farmers are planting fewer opium poppies this year because of a government ban and fear that their crops will be destroyed in an internationally sponsored crackdown, a U.N. report released Sunday said.
Afghan officials said the eradication drive would begin within days, but warned that more international aid was needed to uproot one of the world's largest illegal narcotics industries.
Opium production has boomed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, and the United Nations has estimated that drug trafficking equals 60% of Afghanistan's legitimate gross domestic product.
"I know it's an illicit economy," Counter-narcotics Minister Habibullah Qaderi said. "But for the time being, Afghanistan is trying to recover from all the problems of these so many years."
He said hundreds of millions of dollars pledged by the U.S., Britain and the European Union to help farmers switch to legal crops were insufficient to offset the blow that eradication would deliver to the economy.
The U.N. report said opium poppy sowing was down in all but five of the country's 34 provinces. Last year, cultivation reached a record 323,700 acres and yielded nearly 90% of the world's opium.