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“Agriculture has never been more important to the future of Afghanistan, not only as an engine of development and improvement of lives, but also because the nation, which should be a net exporter of food, is facing a food shortage,” Ambassador William Wood said at an Agricultural Fair in the capital, Kabul, this week.

“Tragically,” he added, “some of Afghanistan’s best lands are being diverted away from legitimate agricultural production by criminals, and many improvement, such as dams and irrigation, are being prevented by Taliban violence.”

Afghanistan is the world’s leading producer of opium, supplying about 90 percent of the illegal drug trade. The United Nations estimated that last year about 477,000 acres were devoted to cultivating poppies, from which opium is extracted.

Mr. Wood also noted that the presence of more than 65 foreign firms at this year’s fair shows a growing international interest in legitimate agriculture.

“Afghanistan is famous for its production of fruits, nuts and vegetables,” he said. “It is obvious that Afghanistan has sparked the interest, and appetite, of the world.”

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