Commerce Ministry Seizes Large Quantities of Rice, Others on Market

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The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) has seized unspecified quantities of rice and other basic commodities business houses in Monrovia. The items were seized from “unscrupulous business entities” on the Liberian market, an official from the Ministry said.

The Director of Public Affairs, Mitchell Jones, who made the disclosure to our Business Desk on Monday, October 20, said the commodities were seized from several business houses, “because they were involved in unwarranted price hiking.”

According to him, the Ministry’s inspection teams raided those commodities from several business houses in Monrovia during the Ministry’s regular inspection tour of business places.

Mr. Jones noted that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has warned business houses in the country against unnecessary profiteering and arbitrarily increasing prices of essential goods and services on the Liberian market.

He continued: “These are drastic time and we must take drastic actions,” cautioning all businesses engaged in unwholesome practices to desist from such habits.

In the face of the Ebola crisis, prices of basic commodities, including hand-wash materials such as sanitizers, plastic buckets, detergent soap, Dettol, insecticide and soap went up, thereby creating more hardship for the impoverished, averaged Liberians.

Despite this raid, many business people have always said there had been no price control mechanism even before the deadly Ebola outbreak, so the government should stop acting as if it had been effective in the country.

Jones told the Observer Business Desk that though the Ministry lacks logistics to adequately carry out its operations, yet; it has deployed 120 inspectors, who are mandated to look at the prices of goods. According to the Ministry of Commerce’s Public Relation Director, the inspectors are also directed to seize any goods, which have hiked price labels and those ones that have been hoarded from the market in order to create scarcity.

He further said that the Ministry’s inspectors are out there on the field with a mandate of monitoring the prices and sales of these materials. One of the commodities that are being watched by the inspectors is the nation’s staple food, rice.

These measures, he noted, are the start of rigorous check on these businesses and even the small scaled dealers.

Jones used the occasion to advise all business owners, who are engaged in these unscrupulous activities to revert to normal business practices and sell at normal prices.

He said Commerce and Industry Ministry is urging all business entities dealing in rice, to remain on the regular price, thereby making it affordable to everyone.

He further told the Observer Business Desk that their attention has also been drawn to businesses that are hiking prices of Ebola-related items, including hand-washing materials. He warned them to desist from such practice.

He also disclosed that the Ministry has shut down two makeshift gas stations in the Airfield Community for what he termed as “operating illegally.”

“The two gas stations, while operating illegally, also don’t have safety materials, including fire extinguishers in their possession,” he added.

Jones further stated that apart from those things, both stations don’t have a business permit from the Liberia Business Registry and Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

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