Apparently Unhappy With Negotiation -Boakai Invites Rice Merchants To Talk Rice Price Over

MONROVIA: For days, if not weeks, government negotiators headed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, nearly stalemated negotiating proposed increment in the price of the price of a bag of rice with the proponents, the major importers. The rice barons had opted for a step-up in rice price, citing what looks like undisputable exogeneous factors to $20 from the current tag of $16.50. But the chief negotiator Amin Modad and his team at the Ministry of Commerce pinned the importers to a lesser tag, $18.50, something that still does not appear to be to the taste of Chief Executive Joseph N. Boakai. Now the President is inviting, some say summoning, the importers for re-negotiation, and the nation is poised to see what comes out of it. The Analyst reports.

Barely 24 hours after the Government of Liberia through the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Amin Modad, announced a slight increase in the price of rice from $16.50 to $18.50 per 25kg bag of rice, there was a U-turn decision yesterday from the government to revert to the old price of $16.50 while the Minister of Commerce and the Rice Importers were told to re-examine the situation.

Press Secretary Kula Fofana announced, following President Joseph Nyuma Boakai’s meeting with the importers at the Executive Mansion, the government announced that there will be no increase in the price of the nation’s staple.

“Following the meeting with Rice importers, President Boakai is quoted as saying there will be no increment in the price of rice,” states an update posted by Madam Fofana on the Executive Mansion official Facebook page said.

It is not clear whether this decision to halt the increase in the price of the commodity will be permanent or altered since the President had ordered for another meeting between the Minister and the importers.

It can be recalled that the government, after a series of discussion with the importers who had proposed for an increase, against the background of unfavorable conditions militating against the price at its original price at $16.50, conceded to the importers’ request and slightly adjusted the price upwards.

Speaking at a special press briefing yesterday at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Minister Amin Modad reflected on all that was put into the negotiation to get the deal.

He said the agreement followed several meetings after the rice importers presented compelling reasons to the government why the price should be increased, among which was the 20% surcharge placed by the government of India on rice exported outside of the country in addition to the long route and cost associated with the same importers were confronted with to have the goods brought to Liberia.

“We had extensive discussions in all the meetings we attended with the importers and what we projected was the interest of the ordinary end users of the rice as well as the interest of the importers who are in business,” he told journalists. “And the need to ensure that the commodity remains available on the market.”

The Commerce Minister continued: “So, whatever the price that was agreed upon, it was the best offer that we can secure for our people which should be the case for now while the government sets into motion a permanent solution which is to secure food security with massive production of rice in the country for both local consumption and export.”

He also emphasized how the Rice Importers lamented the on-going conflict between Israel and Gaza, which has impacted the Suez Canal and led to longer shipping routes.

He also said rice dealers also pointed to heightened fees imposed by entities such as APM Terminals, Med-Tech, the National Port Authority, and the Liberia Revenue Authority as some of the challenges.

“It is a hard decision, but again as per the negotiations from the government of Liberia with the Rice Importers, the price has been agreed upon to 18.50 cent rather than the 20 dollars they were requesting in the rice increment,” Modad said, reassuring the citizenry that the government was however working with authorities at the Freeport of Monrovia to reduce the price of rice on the market.

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