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CommentaryGeneralLiberia news

Commentary: Local Rice, Not Local Riot

By : Togba-Nah Tipoteh

The government of Liberia has increased the price of rice. Liberia continues to import at least two-thirds of the locally consumed rice, meaning that the price of the imported rice influences rice price. Most of Liberia’s 5% broken rice is imported from India, a country that exports at least 40% of the world’s 5% broken rice. Due to the imposition of a 24% increase in the export tariff on exported rice by the government of India, the price of exported rice was increased from USD550 a metric ton to USD560 a metric ton. Therefore, the local rice price increased again, generating more poverty as the cost of living rise.

On April 14, 1979, the Minister of Agriculture of Liberia, Dr. Florence Chenoweth, proposed a price of rice increase from USD22 a 100-pound bag to USD26 a 100-pound bag. The Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) Leader, Mr. Gabriel Baccus Matthews, announced that rice could be imported for USD12 per 100-pound bag. Then he, Matthews, announced that there would be a PAL demonstration against the rice price increase proposal. The Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJA) advised PAL not to demonstrate in the streets but to demonstrate in the Court by taking the government to Court. But PAL disagreed.

Then, an Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) officer shot and killed an unarmed civilian bystander near the Defense Department on Benson and Buchanan Streets. From there, the Police of Liberia, led by its Director, went to the PAL National Headquarters on Gurley Street and shot and killed some PAL unarmed members, less than fifty of them unarmed had assembled at the Gurley Street PAL Headquarters. The news of the Police shooting killings spread widely, and such led to fear and looting, now called the rice riots. The riots were started by the people who ran because of their fears and the looting of the stores in Monrovia. Up to today, the government and the media continue to refer wrongly to the PAL planned demonstration as the rice riots caused by PAL. Although PAL planned to demonstrate, PAL did not demonstrate, as they were assembled at the PAL Headquarters, where the National Police killed some of their members. The government of Liberia continues to report that less than sixty persons were killed, but nearly 200 bodies were taken to the JFK Hospital, as reported by two Liberian Medical Doctors. Also, over two hundred dead bodies were observed publicly taken out of Monrovia and buried in a mass grave.

After more than sixty-four years since the rice uprising, the government of Liberia has continued to increase the price of rice, Liberia’s staple food. In the midst of the importation of nearly USD300,000 million worth of rice annually. The Front Page Africa newspaper published a research result a week ago stating that nine out of ten Liberian subsistence farmers want to migrate to some foreign countries because of the negative consequences of climate change.

This desire for migration is taking place when over three thousand Africans have been killed by drowning at sea in attempts at migration.

Through this Commentary series, information has been revealed that swamp rice farming in Liberia can eliminate poverty generation and generate poverty alleviation. This information has indicated that Liberia has plenty of swamps that can produce rice at least every four months instead of the dominant upland rice with one harvest a year. In a harvest with one acre, rice can generate LD7,000,000, meaning that a swamp rice farm can generate LD21,000,000 annually. This means that Liberia can increase rice production, lower rice prices, reduce rice importation, increase local ownership of production, raise local education and training, and increase local employment. Raising income generation and generating poverty alleviation, eliminating poverty as the pretext for violence. 

However, rice price reduction is not taking place because of the greed of the powers that be. This is bad news. The good news is that the people who love Liberia continue raising awareness, motivating the people of Liberia to take action within the Rule of Law to transform the prevailing unfair electoral system into an enduring fair electoral system. Only through this transformation can persons with good records get elected to bring in the system of Justice, the indispensable ingredient for Peace and Progress in Liberia and any other country. 

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