-- Commerce Ministry dispels rumors
Authorities of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) over the weekend vehemently rejected claims that there is a shortage of rice on the local market, contrary to speculations that the commodity was in short supply.
The Commerce Ministry’s clarification comes at a time when Liberians are experiencing a severe hike in the price of the country’s staple food from US$13.50 to almost US$20.00. Though rice is in recent days scarce on the market, Commerce Minister Mawine G. Diggs attributed the hike in the price of rice to speculations in the public that the commodity is not in the country.
Minister Diggs, who addressed a special press briefing held at the Ministry's conference hall on Saturday, September 4, said the information regarding the artificial scarcity of rice on market is false and misleading.
“I want to state clearly here that there is no, absolutely no, shortage of rice on the market and therefore no need for panic buying as we have observed,” she added.
She maintained that there is sufficient rice on the Market and disclosed plans by the Government of Liberia to work with Rice importers to resolve the situation about a hike in the price of the commodity in a shorter time. Minister Diggs, however, said offloading of the rice from the vessels at the Freeport of Monrovia by importers sometimes delays, which she said does not amount to rice shortage.
The Commerce Minister called on the business people to desist from creating artificial scarcity of rice on the Liberian market and further warned that anyone caught doing so will face the full weight of the law. She encouraged the public to remain peaceful as the Government is doing everything possible to ensure the supply of rice on the local market for consumers.
“We have enough rice at the port of Monrovia to take us from now to November of this year; therefore, I’m calling on all Liberians not to panic as I’m closing in conversation with the importers,” Minister Diggs said.
According to Minister Diggs, the price of rice on the market remains on sale for US$13.00 for wholesale on the 25kg bag of rice, while retail is US$ 13.50. She assured that the rice situation, particularly the price of the staple food, will be stabilized in the face of efforts by the Ministry of Commerce and importers to ensure sufficient supply on the local market.
She also said that the Ministry will be robust and will not relent to closing down stores and businesses that are caught hiking the price of rice for profit-making, adding that, “We are working towards setting up tentative retail prices for rice to avoid the artificial shortage.” Meanwhile, the Commerce Minister further disclosed that as of this week, inspectors from the ministry will be dispatched to various business establishments to counter-check on those who are reportedly in the habit of creating artificial scarcity of the nation’s staple food.