In this photograph taken on April 19, 2016, an Afghan farmer harvests opium sap from a poppy field in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar province.AFP / NOORULLAH SHIRZADA
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Afghanistan has all the trappings of a narco-state, with opium production – the lifeblood of the Taliban insurgency – from the traditional spring harvest alone edging toward a record high.Sourced from local traders, those seeds shorten the growth cycle of the plant to around 70 days compared to the usual five to six months, with largely the same quality of opium resin, multiple farmers told AFP.The Taliban, widely likened to a drug cartel, earn up to $1.2 billion annually from taxing poppy farmers alone, Western officials say.Opium remains an economic linchpin for many farmers, who apparently have a strong preference for cultivation in areas under Taliban control.Euphoria erupted some months ago in Kandahar's mountainous Shah Wali Kot district when a farmer practicing crop rotation sought to plant onions after the spring poppy harvest.As multiple harvests become the new normal, Qasim said, poppy farmers are less inclined to do what was deemed necessary when the eradication risk was high: Dedicating a part of their farmlands to less profitable cash crops for the sake of food security.
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