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Importers Want: Rice Price UP

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By: Frank P. Martin

MONROVIA: Rice Importers across the country have called for increment of 25kg bag of rice from US$$16.50 to US$$18.50.

The Rice Importers sent a letter to the previous administration of former President George Manneh Weah in October 2023, requesting an increase in the price of rice from $17.50 to $20.

However, the request was not fulfilled due to political considerations during the 2023 presidential and Legislative elections period.

In February of this year, the importers wrote a letter to President Joseph Nyuma Boakai’s administration, outlining the reasons for their price increase request, including imposing an additional 20% charge, lengthened shipping routes through the Suez Canal due to the war in the Middle East, resulting in increased transportation costs from APM Terminal, Med-Tech, NPA, LRA, etc.

Commerce Minister Amin Modad, speaking at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism Special Press Briefing Monday said he appealed to the importers not to raise rice price due to fact that this is a new government and that rice is a politically sensitive commodity in Liberia.

After said meeting then, the Importers and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) agreed that the price would be reduced to $16.50, and the importers would invest in local rice production.

According to the Commerce Minister, the agreement was contingent on the importers bringing rice and selling it at $16.50 until May, 2024, while it was being observed as to whether or not the Indian government would have reduced tariffs.

On May 14, the importers once again wrote to the government requesting an increase in the price to US$21, citing the previous reasons, as well as an additional 4% increase imposed by the Indian government.

Decisions were reached that the price would be increased to $18.50, and the importers agreed to provide different varieties of rice at lower prices.

He said assurances were given that there would be no shortages in the market and the importers made an initial commitment of US$$200,000 for local rice production and expressed intentions to increase the investment in the future.

This followed top exporter, India, which rice export prices rose early March as traders factored in higher duty on rice shipments, while demand remained lackluster in Thailand.

India’s 5% broken parboiled variety was quoted at US$550-$558 per ton recently, shapely increased from in March, 2024, $543-$550. Since March, prices hit a record high of $560.

“We’ve had to raise prices since the government is considering the total transaction value instead of Free on Board (FOB) value to calculate the 20% export duty. This has pushed our export prices higher,” said a New Delhi-based dealer with a global trade house.

New Delhi imposed a 20% export duty on parboiled rice exports in August 2023 to control domestic rice prices.

Indian exporters have received notices from the customs department demanding payment of duty differentials on rice exported in the last 18 months, four exporters told Reuters, a rare tax demand that could cripple rice shipments from India.

The Indian Government has added another 4% this year, totaling 24% taxes to ship rice from India.

India is the world’s largest rice exporter, accounting for more than 40% of global shipments. Apart, from the recently ban higher-grade basmati rice – India’s best-known variety– non-basmati white rice accounts for about 25% of exports.

Other factor that led to the Indian Government in rice taxes on rice export has to do with climate change.

Rice prices have surged to their highest levels in a decade, marking a 14% increase since 2023 June.

The situation is primarily caused by warmer, drier weather and erratic rainfall damaging rice production throughout Asia.

In the past months, torrential rains and floods in northern India, for example, have damaged many rice fields.

Also, Thailand’s 5% broken rice prices was quoted at $585-$590 per ton, slowly went up recently to $598.

Another Asian nation, Vietnam’s 5% broken rice was offered at $590-$595 per metric ton, remain the same for now.

“Exporters have slowed down their purchases from farmers after an U.S. forecast saying earlier this month that the Philippines might reduce its imports this year on rising domestic supplies,” a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City said.

The Philippines is Vietnam’s largest rice export market.

Meanwhile, rice prices in the United States have are also on rise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for rice are 93.90% higher in 2024 versus 1997 (a $1.27 difference in value).

The current national average price is $1.35 for “Rice, white, long grain, precooked (cost per pound/453.6 grams)”. This data is collected by a national survey and can vary from region to region.

In the US, between 1997 and 2024: Rice experienced an average inflation rate of 2.48% per year. This rate of change indicates significant inflation.

In other words, rice costing $1.35 in the year 1997 would cost $2.62 in 2024 for an equivalent purchase. Compared to the overall inflation rate of 2.48% during this same period, inflation for rice was higher.

With these global rice traders hiking the prices of rice, which is Liberia’s staple food, reports say this could lead to local price increment here as well.
These international constraints might compel other rice traders in Africa to follow suit, as one student of the University of Liberia, Michael Wleh, puts it, Liberian government should begin to engage rice traders before the country experience artificial shortage aimed at profiteering.

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