'Structural fix' needed to address rice woes: economist

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 29 2018 11:22 AM | Updated as of Oct 29 2018 11:44 AM

'Structural fix' needed to address rice woes: economist 1
A worker stacks repacked bags of National Food Authority rice at a grains distributor in Pritil, Tondo, Manila. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - A long term "structural fix" is what the country needs to manage rise supply, an economist said Monday, as government economic managers moved to bring down the price of the staple grain.

Rice importation in the Philippines has always been a governance issue, said Ronald Mendoza, dean of the Ateneo School of Government. 

"Changing the leadership would be helpful but if you merely change the people but do not change the system, then basically you keep on making the same kinds of mistakes moving forward," Mendoza told ANC's Early Edition. 

There needs to be "deep reform" in the National Food Authority, Mendoza said, calling the agency "poorly managed and poorly run."

"Good decision in rice importation should be made in order to prevent rice price hikes," he said.

Shifting to tariff-based from quota-based importations one of the "bigger reforms" needed by the country, he said. 

The tariff-based importation is less susceptible to mistakes and corruption, he said. However, safety nets for farmers who could be impacted by the reform should be in place, he said.

The government should strengthen cooperatives. Farmers should also be given a seat in the proposed Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, Mendoza said. 

"A dramatic and sudden opening up will really have an impact to farmers that I think we have to balance with our ability to protect our farmers and to allow them to adjust," he said.