Commerce Ministry Refutes Speculations -Says No Looming Rice Shortage

The Ministry of Commerce Ministry and Industry says recent speculations, fear and rumors about a looming rice shortage on the local market, have been laid to rest, as importers of the staple told journalists who were taken on a guided toured that their ware houses contain sufficient quantity of the commodity on the market.

A Commerce Ministry release said the team of journalists was taken on a steered tour of the ware houses of Liberia’s major rice importers at the Free Port of Monrovia, by Commerce and Industry Ministry officials led by, Minister Wilson K. Tarpeh, along with Deputy Commerce Minister for Trade Services, A. E. Nyemah Wisner, on Friday, February 28, 2020.

Based on both data from the rice importers and what was physically seen by the team of reporters during the tour, there is at least 103,000 Metric tons (4,120,000 bags of 25 Kg,), or about eight (8) months of market demand.

The five major importers include Fouani Brothers; Fouta Corporation; K&K Corporation; Supplying West Africa Traders Incorporated (SWAT); and United Commodities Incorporated (UCI).

In addition to the above quantity, they importers told the visiting journalists that they expect about 116,000 Metric Tons (4,640,000 25Kg. bags) between now and early May, with the first 35,000 Metric tons (1,400,000 25Kg. bags) arriving in the country beginning March 10.

On the allegation made by Rep. Yekeh Kolubah, District 10 Montserrado County, the five businesses told reporters that the wholesale price of rice, which was reduced from US$16.50 per bag has been U$13.00 per bag on the request of President Weah in March 2018, has not changed since. Taking into account the quantity of rice consumed by the country on a monthly basis, the 4,640 bags of rice can also sustain the local market for additional 8 months.

According to the release, the figures also suggest that the local rice market will remain in tight for over a year, contrary to speculations and rumors of looming rice shortage.

During separate interactive discussions with the team of reporters during the Friday, February 28, 2020 tour of their ware houses at the Free Port of Monrovia, the Managing Director of UCI, Mr.  Wahab Dhaini, the General Manager of SWAT, Mr.  Aziz Ezzeddine, the Ware House Manager of K and K, Mr. Mustapha Saleh, and the Import Manager of Fouani Brothers, Suresh Soni, denied reports about stepping up the price of rice.

“As we speak, the price of the commodity remains stable at $US 13.00 and $US 10.00, depending on the brand,” said one of the importers during an exclusive interview with the press.

They also assured the Liberian Government of their commitment to upholding the Buffer Stock Agreement, as part of efforts to keep the rice mark stable and reliable.

Meanwhile Commerce and Industry Minister, Professor Wilson K. Tarpeh, speaking to the team of journalists said the tour was necessary to put to rest, increasing rumors that rice importers had increased the price of the commodity on the Liberian market and to also bring the media face-to-face with the importers that are involved in the rice business.

Prof. Tarpeh said Liberians consume an average of 550,000 bags of rice per month depending on the season; noting that the consumption is higher during the Rainy season.

Minister Tarpeh re-iterated the Liberian Government’s commitment to ensuring that essential commodities are always available on the local market at affordable prices.

At the same time the team of journalists commended the Commerce Ministry for decision to tour the facilities of the major rice importers, adding that the idea provided them an opportunity to see for themselves what is obtaining on the local rice market in the wake of the rumors, fear and speculations, the release concluded.

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