Commerce and Industry Minister Wilson K. Tarpeh yesterday informed members of the House of Representatives that the Rice Importers Association has dropped the price of a 25kg rice as negotiated by President George M. Weah.
During Tuesday’s session, Mr. Tarpeh said though the Rice Importers delayed by three weeks after they met with the President in February, the price reduction took effect by US$2 on the 25kg rice, and US$4 by 50kg.
Tarpeh further told the lawmakers that at a later date, because of the downturn on the price of rice on the world market, the Rice Importers again reduced the price of the commodity by US$1, totaling US$3 on the overall reduced price.
He told the House of Representatives that even though the overall total cost of the price of rice has been dropped, it does not affect the market price of the cup of rice, “because of the high exchange rate between US dollars and Liberian dollars.”
“The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has ensured that the discussion which was done between the President and the Rice Importers was followed, and the price of rice was reduced by US$3,” Mr. Tarpeh said.
Also, the spokesperson of the Rice Importers Association, George Nehme told the lawmakers that since their meetings with their president and the Commerce Ministry, they reduced the prices as agreed.
“These are our receipts or invoices of the sale of rice to our customers, and we sold it [at] US$14 and later US$13,” Mr. Nehme, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SWAT said.
Members of the Rice Importers Association who attended the hearing in the House Chamber included, John Bestman of Harmony Trading Inc. and Anwar Ezzeddine of United Commodities Inc (UCI). Others were Mohammad B. Son and Oman A. Barry of Fouta Corporation; and Madam Pauline Ponyene and Vezeliba B. Banna of K & K.
However, plenary through votes mandated the Committee on Commerce and Industry to work along with the ministry and the Rice Importers to work out a modality that the reduction of the total cost should affect the unit price on the market.
Despite such claims in the reduction of the price of rice, local petty traders and consumers alike however contend that the price of rice still remains high at the current market price of US$15 per 25kg bag of rice. Betty Siaway, a market woman at the Rally Time market in central Monrovia says Government should open the market so that the Liberia Marketing Association can bring in their own rice which they can sell and make some profit to help themselves.
She said aside from rice, the prices of other commodities on the market continue to go up every day, noting that there is hardly anything that a person can now buy for five (5) Liberian dollars unlike before. “When you talk, the business people say the exchange rate is high and it is still going up,” she lamented.