By far, the leading heroin producer in the entire world is Afghanistan. This country alone is responsible for 85% of the total global heroin and morphine that is transported throughout the world. Afghanistan is considered to have a monopoly on the heroin market. Further, 93% of non-pharmaceutical-grade opiates that enter the world market originated in Afghanistan. This industry in Afghanistan is a lucrative endeavor with export values averaging about USD 4 billion annually. Before the Taliban’s opium ban, this income was shared between about 200,000 family farmers who dedicated their land to opium production. This industry provides about 400,000 jobs throughout the country for Afghan farmers. In addition to heroin, Afghanistan is also the leading producer of hashish.
Although not nearly the global power Afghanistan is, a large portion of the world’s heroin comes from Mexico. It is estimated that almost 72 metric tons of heroin are produced annually in Mexico. In 2021, the United States Government determined that the amount of farmland dedicated to heroin propagation increased by about 23% in just one year. In 2020, about 23,200 hectares of land were dedicated to heroin production, while in 2021, almost 28,600 hectares of land were dedicated to farming heroin. Heroin production also increased significantly, going from 59 metric tons of exported heroin in 2020 to nearly 72 metric tons in 2021.
Due to the ideal weather conditions, Guatemala is another popular location for heroin production. For years, Mexican drug cartels have been moving operations to Guatemala in search of perfect farmlands to harvest the plants needed to produce heroin. Poor indigenous farmers, particularly in the western highlands, are convinced to replace their sustenance crops with poppies. The Mexican drug cartels pay farmers a fair price for their produce, which becomes heroin. Many poor farmers in Guatemala are convinced that their crops are used to produce “medicine” rather than illegal drugs that will be sold worldwide. The majority of the heroin from Guatemala goes to the United States.
Another South American country that is a leading producer of heroin is Colombia. Although Colombia was once a prime production center, heroin production has decreased steadily since 2001. The United States Government closely monitors the amount of farmland dedicated to growing poppies. Heroin production reached its peak in 2001 in Colombia, with about 6,540 hectares of land dedicated to heroin production. In 2009, the amount had dropped to only 1,100, the lowest heroin production ever recorded in Colombia. It follows that during the same period, the production of heroin dropped from 11.4 metric tons to only 2.1 metric tons. The majority of heroin produced in Colombia is sent to the United States or Canada.
Heroin is produced in many countries around the world, but Afghanistan produces the most. This country produces about 85% of the world's heroin.