President George Manneh Weah wants the price for rice, the nation’s staple reduced and affordable for the public, lamenting that it is intolerable that the price of a 25kg bag of rice continues to increase amidst acute hardship and mass unemployment in the country.
A 25kg bag of imported rice, less than the 100-pound bag that Liberians had used to prior to the civil conflict here, is sold on the Liberian market between US$18 and US$20 or 2,000 Liberian Dollars, up from 1,700 and 1,800LRD, respectively.
A press release issued by the Executive Mansion in Monrovia last week says President Weah raised the concern in a meeting with importers when he assured them that, “If government-imposed tax is an issue, you can rest assure that my government is more than ready to grant reasonable adjustments in the tax regime to make the reduction of rice price possible.”
While we applaud the President for taking the initial step in tackling the high price of rice, dubbed our staple food, but which we do not produce as Liberians, we think a sustainable solution is for government to embark on a vigorous national agriculture program that would make this country self-sufficient in food rather than relying on imported rice to survive as a people.
Not only would we be self-sufficient in our staple, but we would save millions of dollars that are spent each year on rice importation along. We have the soil and human capacity to invest in agriculture; all that is needed is to modernize the process by changing from subsistent farming to mechanized agriculture.
It would do us well if we started sooner than later. A well carved national agriculture program would take this economy much farther than we may imagine. We are not talking about lip-service agriculture as previous administrations had done, but one that would yield results that would impact the country in terms of self-sufficiency in food.
With vast lands from Grand Cape Mount County to Cape Palmers in the Southeast, there is absolutely no reason why we cannot grow enough rice to eat or feed ourselves, and import some to other countries. We must challenge ourselves. It is achievable.
The jobs that almost the entire nation is clamoring for right now are available in the agriculture sector. The returns from such investment are unimaginable. We should just look to our neighbors especially, Guinea and Ivory Coast to see how agriculture can empower a country and its people.
President Weah emphasized during his meeting with rice importers that reduction in the prices of essential commodities is inextricably integral to his administration’s pro-poor governance agenda. We dare say that prices would never move downward so much as we desire unless we learn to grow some of the food that we consume.
If the government’s much heralded pro-poor agenda should have real meaning in the lives of ordinary citizens, who are in the majority, we believe strongly agriculture is the surest way to start, because it is sustainable, not reducing tax, which is cosmetic and seemed effective in the short-run rather than in the long-run.