In line with the government’s goal of achieving zero rice importation after 2013, the Department of Agriculture plans to expand the coverage of its third cropping program for rice next year to 300,000 hectares of land from only about 91,495 hectares at present.

Agriculture assistant secretary for the national rice program Dante Delima said the agency was now identifying areas suitable for third cropping. The DA is focusing on areas in Regions 1, 2 and 3, where irrigation systems are in place.

“We have validated that the earnings of rice farmers rose with the third cropping. So we, together with the National Irrigation Authority, target to cover 300,000 hectares of land next year,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the National Convention of Food Staple Producers in Manila on Wednesday.

“It’s more productive. You multiply it (hectarage) by four metric tons and that’s the additional rice production,” he said.

If all goes according to plan, the program would add 1.2 million MT to the total yearly rice output, Delima said.

“This would help us achieve our food sufficiency and security goal. And it is possible that we will no longer be importing rice from other countries after 2013,” he said.

By next year, about 250,000 farmers would benefit from the program. Farmer-irrigators who will sign up for the program will be given seed subsidies and covered by crop insurance worth P10,000 per hectare.

The crop insurance and seed subsidies will come from the P300-million fund of the department that was earmarked for this program, Delima said.

He said the 300,000 hectare-target was achievable barring any natural disturbance such as the El Niño phenomenon and typhoons.

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