From British daily The Independent:
Opium: Iraq‘s deadly new export
Amid the anarchy, farmers begin to grow opium poppies, raising fears that the country could become a major heroin supplier
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
Published: 23 May 2007
Rice farmers along the Euphrates, to the west of the city of Diwaniya, south of Baghdad, have stopped cultivating rice, for which the area is famous, and are instead planting poppies, Iraqi sources familiar with the area have told The Independent.
Many people are so poor in Iraq that they cannot afford rice any more.
So, crops for export might look more economically viable; like in Afghanistan …
There is no inherent reason why the opium poppy should not be grown in the hot and well-watered land in southern Iraq.
It was cultivated in the area as early as 3,400BC and was known to the ancient Sumerians as Hul Gil, the “joy plant”.
Some of the earliest written references to the opium poppy come from clay tablets found in the ruins of the city of Nippur, just to the east of Diwaniya.
Opium fields spread across Iraq as farmers try to make ends meet: here.