Home Governance As Rice Price Still Above US$15 ‘Rice Mafias’ Scam? …Want Rice Price Increment Or Subsidy

As Rice Price Still Above US$15 ‘Rice Mafias’ Scam? …Want Rice Price Increment Or Subsidy

by newsmanager

MONROVIA: Multiple investigations by this paper has uncovered that there is a stockpile of rice in the warehouses of leading importers of the nation’s staple, at the Freeport of Monrovia.

By Dan Martin

The investigations however, indicate that despite the huge consignments of rice at the Freeport, the commodity is still difficult to be seen and subsequently purchased in various shops and stores around Monrovia and its immediate environs.

The investigations also established that few retail dealers of the commodity charged exorbitantly at the detriment of the vast majority of poor citizenry for a 25kg bag of rice.

Due to the scarcity of the commodity, a cup of rice has sharply increased from LD$35-70 on the local market. The commodity is being sold in-house in some communities at ‘neck- breaking’ prices.

The strange situation has effectively created apprehension among marketers and ordinary citizens and residents across the country, with some threatening political actions sooner than later.

Last Wednesday, President George Manneh toured several warehouses of rice importers at the Freeport of Monrovia to ascertain as to whether or not sufficient quantity of rice was available on local market.
Following President Weah’s tour at the Freeport, he told the nation that rice has been stockpiled in the various warehouses of leading importers of the country’s leading commodity.

President Weah visited K&K Enterprise and Fouani Brothers warehouses at the Freeport. Apart, there are four leading importers including SWAT, UCI, K&K and Fouani that are benefiting from what appears to be semi-monopoly rights to import rice.
However, our investigation further established that some individuals suspected to be ‘rice mafia’ are lobbying with legitimate rice importers for the Liberian Government to either subsidize the importation of the commodity or allow them to increase the price of rice.

According to a highly placed and unimpeachable business tycoon who prefers anonymity for this story for administrative reasons, increasing tariff, coupled with international insurance fees as it relates to importing of the commodity to Liberia remain a major factor.

The discussions, according to our investigation, seems to be yielding fruitful results as the government prefers to negotiate with legitimate rice importers on the basis of subsidy provision rather than rice price increment.

As one ‘rice mafia’ puts it, the importers are being made to request for at least US$12 million from the government aimed at calming the rice shortage situation, as there will be no more reports of rice shortage in the country if the subsidy is provided.

This paper could not immediately reach Information Minister, Ledgerhood Rennie, relative to claims that the Central Government is currently holding discussions with some rice importers as regards the need for government to provide subsidy to leading rice importers.

It may be recalled that in September 2021, there were reports that some ‘rice mafias’ allegedly instigated some leading rice importers to hoard the commodity for profiteering.

At the time, several local journalists toured several rice storage facilities at the Freeport of Monrovia and it was observed that enough quantity of rice was in the warehouses.

Interestingly however, the price of a regular 25kg bag of imported rice sharply increased from US$13.00 to US$15.00 at the time which also led to huge public outcry.

According to our sources, similar ‘rice shortage drama’ which was initiated, allegedly at the behest of some unidentified “rice mafias” last year is being played to either increase the price of rice or get financial benefits from the government.

Another report adds that when some unidentified importers ‘plotted’ to increase the price of the nation’s staple in 2021, the country was also grappling with the impact of the deadly corona virus disease that snatched away many precious lives.

However, some rice importers in 2021 also demanded for US$2.00 price increment, citing freight charges and other negative global impacts like COVID-19 pandemic.

Similarly, last year, Commerce Minister Mawine Diggs said: “It is important to note that the five rice importers have engaged the government of Liberia on the need to increase the price of rice by two dollars due to increase in freight charges and other negative global impacts like COVID-19.”
The Liberian Commerce Minister noted that the increase in freight charges at the Freeport was adversely affecting trade and commerce in the country.

She stressed, then, that the government has taken note of the situation and was doing everything possible to maintain the price of rice on the local market.

The Minister Diggs indicated that “The government of Liberia is cognizant of the high cost of rice in our neighboring countries in the sub-region which ranged from US$17-35.00 for a 25kg bag of rice.”

However, according to our sources, today, the ‘rice mafias’ have heightened similar game of hoarding the commodity, thereby creating artificial shortage for a new dialogue with importers for price increment or subsidy.
Reports had it that rice became a “political commodity” in Liberia since the 1970s following the infamous “Rice Riot” in Monrovia that led to the killing of over 50 people and the injury of hundreds of others.

According to reports, the infamous “Rice Riot” emanated from a pronouncement the then President William Tolbert Administration made to increase the price of PL40 100lbs bag of rice on the local market, aimed at encouraging Liberians to produce more food for themselves.

In May, 2013, the former Chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC), Dr. Richard Tolbert, disclosed that Liberia as a country spends over US$200 million on the nation’s stable food, rice importation annually. Dr. Tolbert at the time said such expenditure is a total waste and huge financial blow to an already struggling country.

He made the disclosure to a local daily, The New Dawn, in Monrovia following the commemoration of the 100th birth anniversary of his slain uncle, former President William Richard Tolbert, Jr. in Bentol City, outside Monrovia, Dr. Tolbert said. It was during the Tolbert Administration that the bloody rice riot took place in Liberia.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment