As gasoline shortage outpaces the money crisis that confronted Liberians over the recent festive season, resulting into skyrocketing transportation fares, sources at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) have hinted this paper that there is a strong possibility of experiencing high price of rice shortly if President George Weah does not renew Executive Order 93 that suspends tariff on the importation of rice in the country.
Rice is considered a ‘political commodity’ in Liberia. As Liberia’s staple food, rice is imported every year for consumption due to poor agricultural activities despite Liberia’s fertile soil and favorable climatic conditions for Agriculture.
In Executive Order 93, which has elapsed a year and has since expired, President George Weah acknowledged that the government was committed to ensuring that prices of certain basic commodities on the Liberian market are affordable so that the citizens will not undergo undue suffering.
The Executive Order, issued last year, states: “Now, therefore, the Government of Liberia in its desire to continue to bring relief to the public, hereby issues Executive Order N. 93, suspending the import tariff on rice as classified under tariff Nos. 1006.30.00 (in packing of more than 5kg or in bulk); 1006.30.00 (in packing of at least 5kg); and 1006.40.00 (broken rice) under the Revenue Code of Liberia Act 2000 with immediate effect.”
According to LRA insiders, as the Executive Order has expired without renewal, there is a high possibility that the price of rice will increase because in the absence of the Executive Order, LRA has no option but to levy tariff on the importation of rice.
“It is the Executive Order that stops LRA from levying tariff on this sensitive commodity. If there is no renewal and importers begin importing, it means there will be tariff levied which will consequently affect the price of rice on the market for the ordinary buyers,” an LRA source indicated.
Currently a 25-kg bag of rice is sold on the local market for L$2,600 and sellers are of the view that there may be possible increase in the existing price due to the exchange rate between the Liberian Dollar and the United States Dollar. The rate currently stands at L$198 to US$1. As of yesterday January 27, the buying rate for the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) was L$193.5072 to $1.00 USD.
Liberia is a heavy importer of rice, and the commodity comes from India, Thailand and China. Farming is done at a low scale in Liberia, such that what is produced has barely elevated from the subsistence level.