The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) said it has begun investigating a video alleging the sale of “plastic rice” in Liberia, branded as “United Grain-UCI”.
The video, which went viral on social media earlier this week, was made by a man who did not state his name, but claimed the plastic rice has been on the Liberian market for the past three weeks and that consumers did not take any notice of it. According to him, he also ate the rice and experienced digestion problems, which led him to go out and buy a different brand of rice (which he did not name) and compare the two.
He then rolls the rice into two separate balls — “plastic rice” versus “authentic rice” — and throws them around to demonstrate the difference between the two.
The video shows an empty pink UCI rice bag, alleged to be the source of the plastic rice, laid flat on a surface. The man did not say what he did with the rest of the “plastic rice” he found in the bag. On the bag is inscribed that the rice, produced in April 2018 and expiring in April 2021, was exported from India.
The man in the video concludes, “leaked: I am recording this video in Monrovia August 20, 2018, where we have been eating this rice for the past three weeks now. This rice is fake. This is plastic rice. The people are bringing fake rice to kill us.”
United Commodities, Inc., a rice importing company operating in Liberia since 2008 and goes by the same initials (UCI), has described the video as “fabricated”, and that the company stands by its reputation of importing “the best rice” in the country.
Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh said since the information was released on social media and other platforms, there has been a serious investigation by the Ministry to authenticate the information.
The Ministry has put in place measures to identify and detect any such threat to the public. All rice importers have been notified to adhere to standards and quality for the importation of rice.
As part of process for acquiring approval for the importation of rice, the National Standards Laboratory performs a periodic scientific test and sampling of rice, to ensure that the quality required is met.
“All commerce inspectors and Liberia Revenue Authority and Custom officers are duly informed to alert the authorities of the ministries of Health, Commerce and Industry about sub-standard rice being imported by land, sea or air,” Minister Tarpeh said.
He said the ministry will also appreciate any information regarding said rice on the market.
“Let’s help to keep our citizens safe and healthy. Again, this government is committed to protecting its citizens,” Tarpeh said.
He has meanwhile assured the public of the government’s commitment to protect consumers.
Due to the urgency of the information, Minister Tarpeh has advised the public to call the ministry’s hotlines (on Lonestar MTN: 9911 or Orange: 6624) to report any issues regarding the commerce of “our beloved country.”