NEWS FLASH
Report: Rice Shortage imminent in Liberia

Report: Rice Shortage imminent in Liberia Featured

Liberians are facing a potential shortage of Rice, the country’s staple food, a survey conducted by local Journalists revealed.

According to a survey conducted by the Heritage, rice may run out at the close of the year if the Government of Liberia(GoL) fails to take a proactive action.

People close to the rice trade and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry say from September 2021 to date, the GoL has not actualized an offer made to rice importers to provide subsidies for the importation of the commodity.

The GoL offer was intended to stabilize and maintain the retail price of a 25kg bag of rice at US$13. However, it appears that the government is not making good their pledge to provide the subsidy, which is allegedly undermining the capacities of the several rice importers in the country.

There are about five major rice importers in the country that include Fouta, Fouani, SWAT, K and K and UCI. However, UCI has since stopped importation over a year ago, according to people close to the rice industry in the country.

The government’s subsidy offer was made based on mutual understanding with rice importers, according to top sources that suggested the Government of Liberia is not living up to the mutual agreement reached with importers.

As a result, other sources within the rice sector and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry disclosed that the importers are reluctant to submit any Import Notification Form (INF) to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for importation due to the huge losses they continue to accrue in the rice importation business.

This latest situation is causing shortage of the commodity on the local market as visit at several rice warehouses either show empty hall or limited quantity of the product.

The Survey shows that some retailers are profiteering, while the importers and operating on losses.

The survey discovered that the retailers are in fact making the margin of about US$ 2-3 on a bag of 25kg rice; whereas, the importers of the commodity operate on a loss.

A retailer, who spoke in an interviewed with journalists recently, urged government to increase the retail price of rice to avoid the shortage.

Sarah Teah stated that government continued engagement with importers for solution to the problem could avert a potential shortage.

Information gathered from other retailers revealed that some importers are demanding the purchase of other commodities such as chocolate, milk, juices, etc. before they are allowed to buy rice.

Another retailer, Ducan Kpakaler told Journalists that some importers have secretly increased the price of a bag of rice. According to Kpakalar, a particular rice importer usually uses some of its local employees to demand that one should give them for instance, US$14 per bag before they are sold rice, adding that when the invoices on the purchase prepared for the buyer, it is stated US$ 13 for a bag instead of US$14.

“This clearly shows that rice has become gold dust in Liberia as it was during the height of the bloody civil crisis in the 19190s,” another rice retailer observed.

Due to the scarcity of rice, retailers go to some of the importers' Warehouses as early as 3:00 am to form a queue in order to purchase rice; and at times, they would be unsuccessful to buy rice and had to return the next morning.

Based on analysis from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the country’s staple food could get out of stuck between October-December 2022.

‘’There will be a scarcity of rice on the Liberian market if government fails to play a proactive role in the matter,’’ according to a political commentator.

 Considering rice as a political commodity and the nation's staple food, this could have both political and economic consequences if government does not swiftly intervene, he added.

Meanwhile, sources have said that major rice importers are venturing in other profit making businesses as a means of transitioning from the usual rice importation business because of the loses associated with the business.

It is alleged that some of the importers are concentrating either in the cement, gas or building construction sectors.

As of the survey, there are about 800, 000 bags of rice in the country. And because the nation consumes between 800,000 to 900,000 bags per months, according to figure from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, experts surmise shortage is imminent as of the middle of October, 2022.

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