To Keep Rice Price Stable: Gov’t Agrees To Shoulder Importers’ Losses

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Independent investigation conducted by the Hot Pepper suggests that the Government of Liberia (GOL) has finally decided to lay the rice issue to rest, with an agreement to shoulder the losses of the importers in order for the price of the commodity not to be increased.

   Recently, the importers of rice adapted what the media termed, “monkey see, monkey do”, imitating the attitude of petroleum importers by hoarding the commodity until its price is renegotiated. However, the refusal to distribute rice on the market was stiffly resisted by retailers and consumers, and apparently heightened by political actors who intended to gain a point from the problem.

   According to individuals who spoke to the Hot Pepper, the price of rice, which was sold at US$13 (wholesale) and US$13.5 (retail), inflated up to US$18 (wholesale) and US$20 (retail), causing an unbearable situation for the struggling masses who strive to make ends meet.

   Recently, the Rice Importers Association of Liberia, which comprises of five major rice importers: SWAT, UCI, K&K, Fouta and Fouani Brothers, told newsmen that rice dealers have opted to increase the price of rice since 2018 due to the increase of its price on the global market as well as the increase in storage, freight and other fees at the Freeport of Monrovia, but President George M. Weah appealed, and told them that his administration had just been inaugurated and was adopting a new policy to stabilize the price based on his election promise.

    Cllr. James Gibson, Consultant and Lead Spokesman of the Rice Importers Association of Liberia, said the intent of the importers was to increase the price from US$13 to US$16, and to that effect wrote the government, through the Ministry of Commerce, but received no response since then.

 Cllr. James Gibson, Consultant and Lead Spokesman of the Rice Importers Association of Liberia

   According to the importers, if the price of rice is maintained at US$13 amidst the increased taxes at the port, they would accumulate a US$12 million loss, which could throw many of them out of business. They argued that the government needs to put in place a system that will create a win-win situation for government, importers and consumers.

   Meanwhile, the Hot Pepper has learned that the government has agreed to shoulder the losses of the rice importers by appropriating for them a US$12 million stimulus package to create a workable business atmosphere for the rice to be sold at US$13. The Hot Pepper’s investigation revealed that the government’s step in this direction was to save the population from further economic hardship amidst post-COVID-19 effects.

   It is however not yet ascertained when the government’s intervention would take effect, but it was hinted that it would be very soon.

   It can be recalled that President Weah on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, walked unannounced into major rice importers’ warehouses to have a firsthand look at what is obtaining regarding the outcry about hike in the price of the nation’s staple food, rice.

   The Liberian Leader toured the warehouses of Supply West Africa Trading (SWAT), KK, Foauni and United Commodity Incorporated (UCI) and vented his consternation about arbitrary increment of the price of rice in the country.

   This was the second time President Weah had took time off to visit warehouses of rice importers amid a reported rice shortage on the market.

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