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Liberia: Rice shortage a gameplay?

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Liberia:-The New Dawn has gathered from impeachable sources in government and from other sectors of society about ongoing collusion involving some officials and importers to create artificial scarcity of the nation’s stable rice, and hike price.

Despite recent assurances from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Minister of Information that there is sufficient stock of rice in the country to last up to the end of the year, the price of a 25kg bag of rice has jumped from 2,500 to between 2,800 to little over 3,000 Liberian dollars.

The Commerce Ministry had disclosed that current inventory shows there are 40,000 Metric Tons of rice in the country that accounts for 1.6 million bags of the 25Kg rice.

Commerce Minister Mawine G. Diggs also put the approved retail price for a 25Kg bag of Rice at US$13.50, contrary to what is obtaining on the market.

The stock of the commodity in most shops across Monrovia has been depleted, while major importers are rationing wholesale, leading to artificial scarcity.

Another source hints that the government is toying with the idea of increasing tariffs on rice, as it has done to other basic commodities such as petroleum and used cars.  

However, the Minister refuted speculations here that there is a huge rice shortage in the country, casting blame on the opposition for allegedly spreading the rumor.

Madam Diggs explained that the current rice inventory shows that speculations about shortage are far from reality.

“Against this backdrop, the Commerce Ministry is warning against unwholesome practices in the Liberian business sector, including but not limited to hoarding of any commodity for that matter or arbitrary stepping up of its price,” said Minister Diggs.

The Commerce Minister detailed that such available quantity of rice has the capacity to supply the local rice market for approximately three months.

“We admonish the public to work along with the Ministry’s Inspectorate by reporting any unhealthy practices in the Liberian business sector as collaboration plays a pivotal role in curtailing such unwholesome activities,” she said.

In addition, Minister Diggs pointed out that a consignment of 30,000 Metric Tons, an equivalent of 1.2 million bags of rice is expected here that will sustain the local market for two months.

She said 18,000 Metric Tons out of the 30,000 arrived in the country recently, adding that an additional supply of 55,000 Metric Tons is expected into the Country.

Meanwhile, the Minister released two hotlines, 9911 for Orange GSM and 6624 for LoneStar Cell MTN for the public to report whoever is found increasing the rice price, saying they will go after them and ensure they face the law.

She warned that the Commerce Ministry will not relent to apply the appropriate laws in going after those whose inordinate desire is to profiteer at the expense of the public, especially during these testing days of the Coronavirus Pandemic in Liberia. https://thenewdawnliberia.com/commerce-denies-rice-shortage/Story by Jonathan Browne

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