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Enrollees in the government’s crop-insurance program rose by 24.3 percent to 924,343 in 2014, from 743,589 recorded in the previous year, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) said over the weekend.

PCIC, a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC) under the Department of Agriculture (DA), said rice, corn and high-value crop farmers covered by its insurance program expanded in size to 778,375 hectares ,or 53.82 percent higher compared to the 2013 data. Insured livestock also rose sixfold to 500,568 in 2014.

“The [agency] paid out a total of about P734.97 million in insurance claims to 99,335 farmers and fishermen. The amount is 48.4 percent higher than in 2013,” PCIC President Jovy Bernabe said in a statement.

PCIC said 70 percent of farmers and fishermen who were given insurance protection last year were granted free coverage under various government programs such as the provision of insurance to those listed in the Department of Budget and Management’s Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture.

The government also provided free agricultural insurance to Supertyphoon Yolanda-affected areas, selected agrarian-reform beneficiaries, and farmers covered by the DA-Land Bank of the Philippines’s Sikat-Saka Program.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said the government has stepped up the implementation of its crop-insurance program to help farmers cope with the destructive effects of climate change.

“In these times of unpredictable weather patterns and extreme weather events, insurance for crops and even livestock is indispensable to protect farmers and fishermen from the risks of disasters,” Alcala said.

Despite the increase in enrollees, PCIC admits that it has yet to reach farmers and fishermen in remote areas.

“Many are actually not even aware about [the government’s]  insurance systems,” Bernabe said.

PCIC said its periodic review of its insurance program resulted in the development of products with discounted premium rates for swine and poultry growers last year.

“Most of the time, farmers opt not to increase the amount of cover or even obtain cover that is less the production cost in order to avoid additional premium cost. This explains why PCIC can only provide cover that is worth less than the average production cost to most borrower-insured farmers,” Bernabe said.

“However, they actually have the option to increase the amount of cover up to additional 20 percent of cost of production inputs, as portion of the expected yield,” he added.

According to PCIC, the premium cost under the regular rice and corn-insurance programs is partially subsidized to about 55 percent and the balance is shared by the farmer and the PCIC-accredited lending institution as underwriter.

The underwriter and the borrowing farmer agree on terms and conditions, including amount of loan and amount of cover before the issuance of insurance policy.

“The PCIC would always encourage farmers to insure their farms at a higher amount of cover, but this decision ultimately rests with the farmers and the lending institution,” Bernabe also said.

Meanwhile, Bernabe said the GOCC is looking at the possibility of expanding its offerings to other insurance lines such as life and accident insurance and to float bonds to generate internal funds, saying PCIC’s charter allows it to do so.