The Government of Liberia is preparing a supplementary budget to include US$12 million in payment to rice importers to prevent an increase in the retail price of the country’s staple here-this paper has learned.
The move follows importers’ demand for an increment in the retail price of the commodity from US13.50 to US16.00 for a 25kg bag of rice on the local market due to rising cost of importation.
The US12 million, which would be in the form of subsidy provided to importers is geared towards ensuring that the extra cost of importers is covered with no extra charge pushed on consumers.
The government’s move also comes at a time retailers have been scrambling at distribution centers in Monrovia for supplies that are not available or are being hoarded for eventual hike in price.
Retailers last week accused importers of rationing sales. They also complained of discrimination characterized by running battles between marketers and police in the commercial district of Bushrod Island.
Rice is dubbed as a political commodity in Liberia and its shortage led to the infamous “1979 Rice Riot” that turned bloody in the streets of Monrovia and subsequently led to the overthrow of President Dr. William R. Tolbert, Jr. on April 12, 1980, by the military.
On Tuesday, April 5, 2022, several market women involved in the retail sale of rice expressed their frustrations about the scarcity, issuing threats.
One marketer, Hawa Pawoo reveals that a 25-kg bag of rice is being sold for US$20 or an equivalent of 3,000 Liberian Dollars.
Madam Pawoo calls on the government to intervene and stop the hike in the rice price so that she continues her trade, reminding President George Weah had promised Liberians that under his administration, they will not be spectators in their own economy.
A day after the riot, President George Weah visited the Freeport of Monrovia where he toured several warehouses of rice importers to ascertain the situation.
His tour also came after the Commerce Ministry issued a statement late Tuesday, April 5, 2022, acknowledging that it has observed that RETAIL BUSINESSES are consistently increasing the retail price of a bag of rice on the market despite official wholesale price remaining at US$13.00 per bag.
“The Ministry of Commerce and Industry wants to make it crystal clear that the approved Government of Liberia’s retail price for a bag of rice is USD$13.50 and not to exceed USD $14.00.” the statement said at the time.
However, with the planned payment of US12 Million to rice importers to cover the extra import cost, it remains to be seen if this will bring an end to panic buying and hoarding of the commodity.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/rice-crisis-looms-but/–Writes Othello B. Garblah