Opium seller Paiend Khan weighs a bag containing more than 25 pounds (11.3 kilograms) of pure opium at a shop in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, on February 26, 2002.
The violent province—a Taliban stronghold—accounts for more than half of Afghanistan's opium production. Antonio Maria Costa of UNODC said that the Taliban militants levy a tax on farmers and also provide protection for convoys smuggling opium into neighboring countries.
A recent UN survey says that the net value of Afghanistan's annual poppy crop is a billion U.S. dollars. The street price is much higher.
Opium is processed into heroin, and the UNODC report states that in the short-term, the world's heroin market will be determined by what happens with opium production in southern Afghanistan.