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Liberians crave for Pro-Poor Rice

The current uncontrollable craving by Liberians for the Pro-Poor Rice brought in the country recently in the quantity of 80,000 bags is not only sickening, but laughable.

Many Monrovia residents are complaining that the rice is not available in stores for sale, while others claim the consignment is being re-bagged to be sold at a higher price, including reports of unscrupulous business people smuggling it to neighboring countries.

But here is the plain reality: simple elementary economic principles stipulate that when supply does not meet demand, scarcity comes in. And this is the reality we face. No amount of yearning for the Pro-Poor Rice can change anything in the short run as long as supply remains constant at 80,000 bags.

In honest, what can 80,000 bags of rice do to 4.5 million people? It is nothing but a drop in the bucket, given our insatiable taste for rice. We are gathering that sale of the rice is being rationed from market to market. But this will not address the current demand either.

The Government of Liberia says it has established partnership with a so-called private importer, TRH Trading, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to import rice and sell at a reduced price of US$950 and US$10, respectively below the current price of US$17. This means in order to offset the official US$17 for a 25kg bag of rice in the Liberian market, government and its partner would need about 4 million bags of Pro-Poor Rice.

However, even if this were to happen, it does not in any way help the economy of this country, for we consistently maintain that agriculture is the only sustainable strategy in feeding our population. We must grow rice at a large scale and place value on local production against imported rice. There is no other workable strategy.

The current exercise is nothing but mere attempt at scoring political gains, which is shortsighted and unsustainable. We are hearing that the Weah administration intends to take some of the Pro-Poor Rice upcountry to villagers. This would be the greatest mistake! By such action, the government would be discouraging hardworking farmers.

Instead of importing rice for villagers, we call on the Ministry of Agriculture to roll out its agenda for the agricultural sector, which should be a priority by now.

It is a shame that as a nation of 171 years, we Liberians would scramble for broken parboiled rice imported from India. It’s too sad! With a 60 percent youthful population, this country is ripe for agro investment. All that is needed is visionary leadership.

However, the government seems to be sending wrong signals that it would regret later, because if the so-called Pro-Poor Rice would not be available for the market, the Weah administration should get ready for the tongue-lashing it tries to avoid.

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