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Commerce Blames Individual Businesses For ‘Artificial’ Rice Shortage …Confirms APM Terminal Increased Tariff On Rice Importation

By Alex Yomah
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry says it has been observed that the artificial shortage of rice on the Liberian market is caused by some individual businesses.
“Reports reaching Commerce suggest that there are individual businesses selling rice at exorbitant prices and in some cases, hoarding the rice thus creating artificial scarcity on the market,” these were the exact words of Minister Mawine Diggs when she addressed the media at the weekend.
Minister Diggs said in an effort to mitigate the ongoing crisis, Commerce will deploy inspectors across the country and at every entry point and that anyone caught hoarding rice or selling it above the government’s approved price will be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with law.
However, she maintained that, “There is absolutely no rice shortage and there should be no need for panic,” thereby dispelling reports of rice shortage in the country.
The Minister of Commerce and Industry reiterated that there is sufficient stock of rice on the Liberian market despite public outcry over the scarcity of some major commodities including the country’s staple food, rice.
However, she disclosed that the five major importers of rice have met with the government seeking its approval to increase the prices of rice by US$2 for a 25kg bag.
Minister Diggs admitted that as the result of multiple global supply chains, the world is experiencing challenges particularly the drastic increase in rice prices.
According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, importers of rice have committed to continue the wholesale of rice to local retailers.
She further disclosed that apparently the importers’ decision to increase the prices of rice is predicated upon the hike in the prices of the commodity in the region which could perhaps undermine the prices of rice in Liberia.
“The price of rice in the region is around US$17- US$20,” Min. Mawine said.
Though the Commerce Minister assured that government has not endorsed the importers’ request to increase the prices, she revealed that the proposal is being discussed.
At the same time, she confirmed report that a vessel containing a huge stock of rice at the Freeport of Monrovia is due to the increase in Tariff charged by the APM Terminal.
“We too received calls on the matter. We have met the management of APM Terminal aimed at ensuring free flow of trade particularly rice,” she said.
Commerce said part of its mandate has been to closely monitor the global economic challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic as of January this year.
According to her, the Bureau of Trade at the Ministry of Commerce has begun monitoring trade increase along with importers specifically rice importers adding, “We can verify that there is a significant increase in the cost of trade at local levels.”

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