Liberia: “High Foreign Exchange Rate Hampering Reduction of Rice Price”– Commerce Minister

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Monrovia – Liberia’s Commerce Minister Prof. Wilson Tarpeh has told the House of Representatives that the hike in the foreign exchange rate is having a trigger down effect on the reduction in the price of rice – the country’s stable food.

The Commerce Minister and officials of the Rice Importers Association of Liberia were cited by the House of Representative to state whether the agreement entered between the rice importers and President George Weah is being implemented.

It can be recalled that in a meeting with President Weah three months ago, the Rice Importer Association agreed to cut down the price of a 25kg bag of rice by US$2 and 50kg by US$4.

An Executive Mansion release following the agreement stated that “the reduction had come as a result of increased pressure on rice importers by President Weah, who believed it is intolerable for the price of the national staple, to continue to increase amidst the high cost of living in the country”.

Appearing before the plenary alongside officials of the Association of Rice Importers on Tuesday, May 1, Minister Tarpeh confirmed that the rice importers are living up to their agreement with the President.

He said although the implementation is in full swing, only wholesalers are benefiting from the reduction while retailers are not due to the foreign exchange crisis.

He added that for ordinary Liberians to benefit from the pro-poor measure being taken there is need to stabilize the foreign exchange rate, something he noted requires the collective efforts of major actors of the economy including the Legislature.

“The problem is that the effect of the reduction has not been able to flow to our mothers at the market where most of our people are concentrated. And this is either because of the exchange rate,” he said.

“We are working with other ministries in the government, in fact the economic management team and we are discussing that, and we will come back to the House (of Representatives) at the appropriate time to see how we can address the situation with the foreign exchange crisis. There is a problem with the exchange rate regime and will require a global approach to that.”

He also noted that measures are being initiated to ensure the purchase of rice from importers in Liberian dollars.

Meanwhile, the House plenary has mandated the Committee on Commerce and Industries to work with key parties including the Ministry of Commerce and the Rice Importers Association to ensure that the reduction in the price of the nation’s staple food benefits average Liberians.

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