“Rice Availability Important Now than Price” – Govt. Sources -Amidst Global uncertainties

MONROVIA – As uncertainty beclouds the global market about the shortage of basic commodities like rice, competent government sources say concerns should be shifted to the availability of the product on the Liberian market and not the price as adjustment could still be made to reflect the reality of the day just as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned of a global food insecurity next year and perhaps beyond if the crisis in Ukraine does not end.

The early warning from government sources, according to pundits is to dispel the perception that the recent upward adjustment in the price of rice on the local market was the final stage of such decision to establish the realistic price of the commodity in the wake of the external factors challenging the availability of the products.

“So, this is not cast in stone, but the major takeaway from this is Liberians must be concerned about rice being available in the country for the citizens to readily have access to it than talking about the price right now which could change as situation dictates outside there. The Ukrainian war, amongst others has cut the supply for fertilizers used for agricultural production, meaning that farmers will not be able to produce more rice”, the sources said.

The imminent shortage will affect most of the world’s 8 billion people as rice is eaten in so many countries in the world especially Africa. The ongoing war has already put a good number of the world’s population into an alarming state of hunger.

 “We are on the way to a raging food catastrophe, and the world appears to be indifferent. People in five separate places are facing famine. At G20 Summit I warned that without coordinated action, this year’s crisis of affordability may become next year’s global food shortage,” United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted on Nov. 15.

The rising cost of fertilizer on the global market will negatively affect availability of rice and other staple foods in 2023 if the crisis between Russia and Ukraine continues into next year, a Chief Economist at the FAO, Maximo Torero Cullen, has predicted.

Mr. Cullen said wheat and fertilizer supply shortages have already driven up prices and increased food import bills for most vulnerable countries by more than $25bn this year, putting 1.7 billion people at risk of going hungry in the future.

“If the war continues in 2022 and 2023, we could potentially have a food access problem coupled with a food availability problem, because Ukraine and Russia will further reduce their exports, including fertilizers. This is a situation we have to avoid”, he cautioned.

He suggested that key exporters of rice be prioritized to access fertilizer, as they will supply the rice needed by the world to minimize food access problems in the next year and prevent a full-blown catastrophe.

For a long time, many countries around the world have been adjusting the price of rice on the local markets as the international supply chain got disrupted continuously, first with bad weather in Asia where rice is being produced in commercial quantity.

For Liberia, the government has fighting to stabilize the price of imported rice through subsidy to importers in a bid to ease some of the burden on the citizens, but many economists continue that argue that such interventions would only be transitory because not only would government not afford to lose scarce revenue on a stabilization scheme that has no remedy in sight, but that, given such intervention, the Liberian government would continue to increase subsidy markups with each budget year, something that is not sustainable.

Even diehard critics of the government have criticized the subsidy scheme, in the hope that market forces would dictate the price of Liberia staple commodity.

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