— Gov’t threatens to fine rice retailers hiking the price
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Inspectorate division has begun vigorous inspection of warehouses of rice dealers to ascertain that the national staple commodity is sold for US$13.50 or Liberian dollar $2,850. The action is a result of the sharp increase in the price of rice from US$13.50 to $17.50 in recent days by dealers.
The Nancy Doe Market on the UN Drive was a scene of excitement after authorities Commerce Ministry ordered some Fula and Liberian-owned business people to sell their rice at the price of US$13.50 or its equivalent of L$2,850 or risk a huge fine on Monday. Similarly, the ministry initiated the action in one of the country’s densely populated market places, Duala, to ensure that the rice was placed on the market for sale at the right price.
Prior to the Ministry of Commerce visitations to rice dealers in some parts of Montserrado County, the ministry earlier took journalists from various independent media institutions to some warehouses of importers at the Free Port of Monrovia on the Bushrod Island.
Business people told the Daily Observer that the hike is due to the decision by the Government of Liberia through the World Food Programme (WFP) to purchase huge quantities from importers for the ongoing stimulus package distributions.
According to some of the business people, the importers continue to tell them that the government has purchased huge quantities, which was reserved already for them thereby constraining them to abandon their customers.
The inspection tour by Commerce Inspectors in some parts of the country has led many of the business people holding onto the small quantity of rice in their storehouses and increasing the price. They have engaged in secret selling of rice which, if nothing is done it would lead to serious price crises in the coming days.
Liberia’s chief Commerce Inspector, Josephine W. Davies, on July 8 also shut down a number of businesses due to the hike in the price of rice in Kakata, Margibi County. Madam Davies, along with a media team, visited several businesses in Kakata city and has promised to continue to engage them.
This enforcement initiative by authorities of the Commerce Ministry, which commenced on Monday, July 6, 2020, has led retailers to hide and sell their rice in their warehouses to the public.
The recent hike in Liberia’s staple food, rice, continues to claim the attention of the citizenry as the country struggles to contain the pandemic. Ordinary Liberian citizens continue to feel the pinch of this rice saga amid the already tough economic situation facing Liberia.
The scramble was unearthed when the Government of Liberia announced stimulus package distributions last month for underprivileged and less-fortunate Liberians in counties greatly hit by the Coronavirus.
About two weeks ago, citizens woke up to hear news of increment in the price of rice by retailers from US$13.50 (L$2,850) to US$17.50 or L$3,700 or L$3,900, an increment the government through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) has rejected and condemned.
Commerce and Industry Minister, Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh maintained that there is no shortage of rice on the market but artificial shortage initiated by some business people to make a profit at the detriment of the Liberian people.
Minister Tarpeh said the Weah-led government will not tolerate such and, at the same time, warned business people involved in hiking the price of rice to desist.
Despite the decisions by the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Commerce to enforce the selling of rice stored in various warehouses by some unscrupulous business people for profiteering, the scramble for rice continues, as retailers take their chances.