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Editorial: Subsidizing rice price is unsustainable

For selfish political reasons the Government of Liberia believes that subsidizing the price of rice, the nation’s staple is the best strategy in keeping the commodity available on the market. This is not only highly deceptive, but it is subjecting the population to complete illusion.

Previous administrations had played this game of deception to gain political favor at the expense of a well-defined sustainable policy on agriculture, particularly rice production. The Weah administration believes it can thread the same path safely amid the current global food crisis, exacerbated by the Ukraine-Russia war in Europe. But this is not working, as indicated by the present scarcity in the country that has led to hike in price.

The truth of the matter is government has played lip service for too long on self-sufficiency in food, mainly rice despite the fact that Liberia is endowed with very rich soil to grow rice and other crops.

We can record vividly how the late Senator Kerkura Beyan Kpoto of Lofa County, cultivated a very huge rice farm during the Doe regime of so many acres that he was unable to harvest completely up to the outbreak of the civil war in 1989. We’re talking about the farm of an individual; in this case, a single official!

Sad to say, but this administration has been unable to drive an aggressive food production campaign that would take citizens along, and do so in dignity. Rather, it focuses on quick fix by spending millions of dollars annually on subsidizing rice importation that it absolutely has no control over.

The government shot itself in the leg by reaching an agreement with importers, who thrive on profit, to import the commodity and keep price low, howbeit, unforeseen shocks in the global market.

It is time that Liberians face the reality: We must grow rice that is our staple.  If we keep depending on other countries to grow rice for us to buy and eat as a country, we should get prepared for the kind of externalities now confronting us.

Notwithstanding, in the short run, returning to the soil will not remove or address current challenges immediately. There will be sacrifices to pay by working hard and honestly so that we all will enjoy the future.

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Using rice as a political stick is a serious disservice, not only to this present generation, but generations of Liberians to come. Nothing should be difficult in standing up to the fact that we need to grow what we eat than always paying others with scarce cash to feed us when we can feed ourselves if we really mean it.

Unless we decide to do things differently, no amount of dialogue between government and importers will solve the current rice crisis in the country. Subsidy or financial inducement will always be temporary, as it is now. A hint to the wise…      

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The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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