Editorial: The Pending Rice Gloom

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IN EARLY APRIL 2024, to address a request from rice importers, the Commerce Minister, Amin Modad, met with the rice importers. Predominantly, in summary, he requested the rice importers to show good faith to the Unity Party (UP) government by reducing the cost of 5% broken parboiled rice by US$ 0.25 (twenty-five cents), allowing rice to be sold at US$16.75 (sixteen dollars and seventy-five cents). He promised that once the good-fate is actualized, the UP-led government would increase the cost of the 5% broken parboiled rice to US$18.50 (eighteen dollars and fifty cents). The rice importers were assured that the increase would be done with the consent of President Joseph Nyuma Boakai.

PERHAPS, THE COMMERCE Minister did not tell the rice importers the whole truth that he was acting alone and the President of Liberia had little or no knowledge of his endeavors. Without getting the President’s consent and taking up time to educate the Liberian people of the global economic and financial markets, he hurriedly held a press conference at the Ministry of Information where he announced that the 5% broken parboiled rice was to be sold on the Liberian market at US$18.50 (eighteen dollars and fifty cents).

THE NEW PRICE tag for 5% broken parboiled rice was immediately and emotionally rejected by President Boakai during a meeting between him and rice importers. During their encounter, the President unceremoniously and emotionally walked out of the meeting without hearing the pros and cons of the unfolding rice saga.

THE PRESIDENT THEN hurriedly composed and announced a rice committee with a term of reference (TOR) that is unachievable under the one-year lifespan of the Executive Order.

THE BACKGROUND OF this rice situation is that the Indian government in August 2023 was faced with the challenge of conducting state and national elections. In order to control domestic rice prices, the Indian government placed a 20% Free on Board (FOB) export duty on India’s 5% broken parboiled rice, increasing the cost to US%558 per ton.

AFTER THE DECISION was taken, Liberian rice importers officially wrote the then CDC-led government informing it of the 20% export duty (FOB) placed on 5% broken parboiled rice, proffering the option for an increase in the cost of rice on the Liberian market.

UNFORTUNATELY FOR THE rice importers, the CDC-led government was engulfed in political and campaign activities and did not pay any attention to the communication. Regrettably, the CDC did not win the presidency, leaving the Unity Party (UP) government with the quest of solving the rice situation.

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