|Only a very small share of Afghanistan's land (about
15 percent), mostly in scattered valleys, is suitable for farming; about 6
percent of the land is actually cultivated. At least two-thirds of this
farmland requires irrigation. Water is drawn from springs and rivers and
is distributed through surface ditches and through underground channels,
or tunnels, which are excavated and maintained by a series of vertical
shafts. Such a tunnel is known as a karez or qanat. In 1987
about 26,600 sq km (10,300 sq mi) of farmland were irrigated.
Wheat is the most important crop, followed by barley, corn, and rice.
Cotton is another important and widely cultivated crop. Fruit and nuts are
among Afghanistan's most important exports. Afghanistan is noted for its
unusually sweet grapes and melons, grown mostly in the southwest, north of
the Hindu Kush, and in the fertile regions around Herat. Raisins are also
an important export. Other important fruits are apricots, cherries, figs,
mulberries, and pomegranates.
Livestock is nearly as important as crops to Afghanistan's economy.
Karakul sheep are raised in large numbers in the north. The tight curly
fleece of Karakul lambs is used to make Persian lamb coats. Other breeds
of sheep, such as the fat-tailed sheep, and goats are also raised.
Afghanistan is a major supplier in the international drug trade. It is
the second-largest opium producer after Myanmar (formerly known as Burma),
with 950 metric tons produced in 1994. Afghanistan also produces
significant quantities of hashish.