Business Community Questions MOCI’s IPD Requirement

Commerce Minister Marwine Diggs

 -- As prices of frozen foods double

Though authorities at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) have persistently rejected claims that they do usually issue the much-publicized Import Permit Declaration (IPD) on a selective basis, the prices of some food items, mainly frozen food, have spiked due to “limited IPDs” in the country. 

The acquisition of IPD from the MOCI is a requirement to import goods into the country as well as discharge them from the Freeport of Monrovia. 

Accordingly, during the tour of various markets in Monrovia and its environs on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, it was observed that the prices of frozen foods like chicken feet, pig foot, chicken, turkey wings, chicken wings, and sausage on the local market have doubled on account that the retailers are forced to buy at the prices given by the only importer, who is said to be favored when it comes to the acquisition of IPD. 

These foods are part of Liberians’ everyday food, therefore, the demand for them on the market is very high. In December last year, President George Weah issued Executive Order 103 in an effort to stimulate economic growth. Executive Order 103, among other things, exempted all commercial importers of goods into Liberia from seeking Import Permit Declaration (IPD). 

The Executive Order stated, “All Commercial Importers of goods into Liberia are exempted from seeking Import Permits and filling Import Permit Declarations. In lieu of the IPD, the Import Notification Form (INF) is now being used as an administrative document to collect trade statistical data to monitor the inflow and outflow of goods and facilitate trade in the Commerce of Liberia.”

As a result of the lack of adherence to the President’s mandate at the Ministry of Commerce, businesses are now compelled to seek IPD as the Ministry of Commerce has been reneging on the issuance of the IPD. However, many of the affected businesses believe that the Commerce Ministry’s action is deliberate and intended to create an unfair market situation and suppress some businesses.

The report concerning the soaring prices of frozen food on the local market contradicts a recent assertion by the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Marwine Diggs that there is adequate frozen food on the Liberian market.

Minister Diggs made the clarification when she addressed a well-attended news conference at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, regarding reports that there was insufficient rice on the market. Contrary to the reports, the Commerce and Industry Minister clarified that there is sufficient rice at the port of Monrovia that can last from now to November of this year.

“The aim of the Pro-poor is to make sure that the people of this country don’t find it difficult to afford their daily meal. We all know that the only way items can be less expensive on the market is to encourage competition amongst the importers. If you have only one person importing an item in the country, you are compelling everyone to buy at the price he or she (the importer) is requesting for the item,” Josephine Toe, a frozen food retailer at the Water Side Market in Monrovia remarked.  

Several other marketers at the Waterside Market and other markets within Monrovia and its environs buttressed the assertion by their colleague, Josephine Toe as it relates to the soaring prices of frozen food on the local market.   Besides frozen food, it was also observed that other food items like onion and egg are also getting more expensive by the day due to the alleged selective issuance of IPDs. 

“The chicken feet I used to buy for L$100 is now sold at $150 on the market. The price of the onion and the egg has doubled,” Marie Williams, a mother of 10, said. “How do they want us to feed our families when prices are getting unstable and are climbing the ladder every day,” she questioned. 

“You can’t have only one person getting IPD for frozen food and other food items and strangulating others thus putting them in huge fees at the port. That is like saying that you want only one importer in the country. If that is the case, how do you get competition on the market? Everyone knows that without competition on the market prices will always go up at the will of the only importer allowed to obtain IPD,” an importer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, decried. 

“A serious delayed tactics for signing IPDs is affecting other importers and causing serious demurrage, thus triggering the prices of frozen food items on the market to climb at the detriment of the ordinary citizens who have very low purchasing power,” the importer further decried while calling on the Minister of Commerce and Industry to resolve this issues.