In the wake of the arbitrary hike in the prices of certain products on the Liberian market, mainly sanitizing and related items, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) has sounded a strongly-worded warning to business trying to make profit out of the Coronavirus situation.
According to authority at the Commerce Ministry, the concerned business institutions include Sethi Brothers, producers of duraplast buckets, Mano Manufacturing Company, producers of alcohol, Clorox and hand-washing soap as well as sanitizers, and Sunny Brothers, one Liberia’s highest importers of chlorine.
Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak in Liberia, rubber buckets were sold between L$500 to L$600, but the cost rose to more than L$1,000.00 per bucket.
The Ministry’s strongly-worded statement, considered as the last to the mentioned business entities and others, was given Monday, March 30, 2020, during a meeting at the Commerce Ministry at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town.
During the meeting, attended by the Managements of Sethi Brothers, Sunny Brothers and Mano Manufacturing Company, the Ministry said it was unfair for people to be taking advantage of the Coronavirus situation in Liberia to engage in exploitative practices in the business sector.
“In times like these, we look forward to you identifying with our citizens like your colleagues are doing in other countries, rather than inflate the cost of essential materials during the Emergency Health crisis in Liberia,” Minister Wilson K. Tarpeh said.
The Commerce Ministry authorities also told the gathering that doing business in Liberia is not a right but a privilege; noting further that Government will not allow such privilege to be abused through the inordinate desire of certain business establishments to maximize profit at the expense of the Liberian people.
As part of its ongoing efforts to ensure proper monitoring of what is obtaining in the business sector during the Coronavirus crisis in the country, relative to the issue of arbitrary hike in the prices of the named items, the Commerce Minister requested the cited business entities to provide full listing of retailers who are buying from them.
The Commerce Ministry also urged the public to help its inspectors by exposing any form of unwholesome business practices across Liberia.
Meanwhile speaking during the meeting, the Chief Executive Officer of Sethi Brothers, Paul Sethi, hailed the Ministry for the meeting, describing it as part of collaboration between government and the invited businesses.
Mr. Sethi, however, said the price of the plastic buckets have not been increased by his entity in the last ten years.
He continued that a dozen of the plastic buckets has been US$27.00, noting that even at present, they are bringing in faucets and related items by air which, according to Mr. Sethi, is costly.
Speaking further, he called on retailers to stop increasing the price of the items and indicated further that there are others who are bringing in similar buckets on the local market and may be the ones causing the problem.
Mr. Sethi equally agreed with the Commerce Ministry authorities that it was unfair for certain people to be increasing the price of the items at a time Liberians are struggling to contend with the Coronavirus.
Also speaking, Mr. Babani Rickey of Sunny Brothers said they have not increased the prices of sanitizing items, including chlorine.
According to Mr. Rickey, a kilo of the item is sold for US$5.00. He however pledged not to engage in unfair business practices in the country.
Meanwhile adding his voice to his colleagues, the Administrative Manager for Mano Manufacturing Company, Montgomery Wolo, said the company remains committed to assurances made by its CEO at the onset of the Corona Virus crisis in Liberia, by working along with the Liberian Government to defeat the virus.
Mr. Wolo, noted further that Mano Manufacturing Company has not increased prices and has no plans on inflicting additional pains on the citizens during the current health crisis. Like previous speakers, he also said it is dealers out there who are causing the problem.