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Rice shortage continues despite Weah’s dismissal

By Lewis S. Teh

Despite President George Weah dismissing reports of scarcity of rice on the Liberian market, terming it as news in the streets, scarcity of the nation’s staple still persists.

A NEW DAWN’s tour of stores and shops on Bushrod Island on Tuesday, September 27, established the scarcity continues, as both distributors and retailers cue in line for an entire day without having access to the nation’s staple.

On Tuesday, traders at major markets and distributors of the product told this paper that they are yet to receive additional supply of rice, having exhausted their stocks.

In an exclusive interview with this paper, one rice dealer, Josiah Doe, said he’s still expecting new consignment that he had ordered two weeks ago. “For the past two weeks, no rice has been in my store despite getting assurances that rice will be in the country soon,” Josiah says.

“It’s been a week since I last paid for new consignment of rice but unfortunately, the good is yet to be delivered”, he adds and cautions if nothing were done immediately to address the situation, the country could risk another rice riot.

He laments that it has been a difficult time for their businesses, as they have been out of supply for the past two weeks.

Another distributor, Ma Watta, says she ran out of stock for the past two weeks, noting “Since then, I have been waiting for new supply from the importer but to no avail.

“We can’t do anything; we are just sitting down; we are facing difficulty. People are coming to buy rice and we are out of stock. It is a big problem we are facing right now.”

Small businesses and some store operators accuse importers of being responsible for the scarcity.

“When we go to the company, the people who are importing the rice tell us that they are not selling rice to us. It has been more than two weeks now. We the government thru the Ministry of Commerce intervene to avoid more problems,” Ma Watta urges.

“You see; my shop is empty; no rice here, even when you check to the next store, no rice there; all the stores are empty, when we go to the importers, we cannot get the rice. So, we do not know where the problem is coming from.”

“I cannot say whether the importers have the rice or not because they cannot allow us to go into their warehouses. Maybe rice is there, but we don’t know. So, the government should go there to know what is going on.”

Responding to the rice issue on Monday, 26 September immediately after touching down at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Margibi county, President Weah dismissed news of rice shortage in the country, cautioning citizens not to be carried away by “news in the street.”

He urged Liberians to keep calm and promised to verify the information that has become a major concern of the public.

Mr. Weah reassured the Liberian public there’s sufficient rice in the country that will last until next year.

At the same time, he said government will work closely with importers to resolve the rising concern of shortage of the staple that is dubbed as a political commodity in Liberia.

Critics say the government seems to be shooting itself in the leg by continuously subsidizing importers to stabilize price, which is not working.

Government wants retail price for a 25kg bag of rice to remain at US$13.50 or its equivalent of 2,250 Liberian Dollars, but importers and suppliers are reluctant to sell at this price, citing high overhead costs, including fright.

As the country heads for elections in 2023, President Weah, who is seeking a second term, does not want price to shoot up for obvious political reasons. Doing so could cause serious backlash at the ballot box against the President’s re-election bid. Editing by Jonathan Browne

NewDawn

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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