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The government adopted a package of measures Thursday that are designed to put a halt to declining prices of rice.

Most significantly, it is calling for the number of rice-growing hectares to be cut between 50,000 to 100,000 beginning in fiscal 2001.

The package also includes setting aside 750,000 tons of rice as reserves to supply other countries in need.

It is the first time in three years the government has increased the amount of land where farmers are to refrain from planting rice, bringing the total to over 1 million hectares for the first time.

The government’s decision came a day after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party agreed to encourage farmers to cut rice production and to ask the agriculture ministry and the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (Zenchu) to adopt its recommendation over the number of hectares devoted to rice.

With these measures, the government’s overall stockpile of rice will be reduced to around 1.25 million tons by the end of October 2002, from an estimated 2.8 million tons at the end of October this year, officials said.

Under the package, harvest acreage will initially be cut by 50,000 hectares to reduce production by 250,000 tons. But if 2001 turns out to be a bumper harvest, the acreage will be cut by another 50,000 hectares.

In addition, the government will buy 250,000 tons of rice produced in 2000 and turn 150,000 tons now in government storage into animal feed.

Farmers who agree to reduce their planted acreage will get additional subsidies of 5,000 yen to 20,000 yen per 0.1 hectare, depending on what alternative crops they grow.

Rice prices have kept falling due to oversupply.

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