Monkey See, Monkey Do–From Petroleum Importers To Rice Dealers

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The Government of Liberia (GOL) has quickly assured the general public that there is absolutely no shortage of rice on the Liberian market, and therefore cautions against any form of panic buying.

   According to a Ministry of Information press release, the statement comes in the wake of a confusion that erupted on Tuesday, March 29, 2022 between rice distributors and some marketers following the reported refusal of distributors to sell their products. “But the government wishes to emphasize that it has got enough stock already in the country, while additional consignments are expected to arrive by April,” the release said.

   However, investigation conducted by the Hot Pepper reveals that rice importers have been hoarding the commodity, thereby causing its shortage and the increase in its price. Currently, a bag of 25kg rice is being sold at L$2,500 or its equivalent in United States dollars.

   According to the investigation, among the rice importers, only K&K is distributing rice in “huge” quantity, while the rest of the importers, including Fouta Corporation, SWAT, Bridgeway, have put a halt to distribution. However, the Hot Pepper was also informed that K&K, too, is not giving out more than 50 bags to an individual.

   The action of the rice importers could be described in Liberian parlance as “monkey see, monkey do”, taking a similar route of the petroleum importers who recently held on to the commodity only to negotiate with the government for price increment.

   Even though it is believed that surplus rice is in country, the importers are said to be holding on to the commodity in order to have the opportunity to negotiate with the government for an increase in the price of rice. But this is not unique to rice importers, as businessmen have increased the prices of many commodities since the crisis escalated between Ukraine and Russia, squarely relying on the increase in petroleum and transportation fare for their action.

   The action of the petroleum and now the rice importers could be seen as government not having authority over the market price, but always trying to place itself as the determinant of market prices and blaming opposition politicians of politicizing the situation.

   It can be recalled that when the petroleum importers started withholding their produce, the government assured the public that the commodity was surplus in country and there was no need to panic in buying it in bulk. Again, the rice importers are treading the same path and, instead of finding a genuine solution to the problem, government is again reassuring the public that the commodity is not scarce and there is no need to panic.

   “Government is not importing anything and do not have control over the importers, but always put us, the consumers, in a situation that they themselves cannot handle,” Frank Johnson, a rice retailer at Waterside Market, told the Hot Pepper in frustration.

    From all indications, it appears like the “monkey see monkey do” attitude may be the new order of the day, especially if government fails to take action when businessmen decide to hold on to certain commodities, at the detriment of the poor masses.

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