Monrovia - Rice prices remain the same despite President George Weah’s recent intervention and that rice importers have responded to his request to reduce the price of Liberia’s staple food.
President Weah said: “If government-imposed tax is an issue, you can rest assured that my government is more than ready to grant reasonable adjustments in the tax regime to make the reduction of rice price possible.”
Many are now wondering whether the President’s statement is a mere bluff or just another political statement.
Kebeh Mulbah, a mother of four, who purchase rice by cup (retail), said the price hasn’t changed from the day of the announcement. She stressed that dealers are still selling rice at the same prices.
Those who are unable to buy 25kg bag of rice, daily purchase rice by cup to feed their family.
Mulbah said she was filled with excitement when news broke that the President had reduced the country’s stable food.
“We were happy when the President said the rice price will reduce but since that time, rice price is still the same,” Madam Mulbah said.
“I don’t know why the business people are refusing to obey the President’s mandate, Liberian people like hard hand, if this were (Former President) Taylor, who had said it, the next day the price would have dropped to that price that he wants.”
A shop owner Leroy Kollie said, from the day it was announced that the price of rice has reduced, he is constantly confronted with tons of questions from customers why the price of rice hasn’t change.
“We sell base on how we buy; if the importers drop the rice price, we do not need any announcement we will drop the price of rice,” Kollie said.
Kollie further stated that the President’s statement is not backed by action adding that the importers are still selling at the same rate.
Kollie also claimed that continual increase in exchange rate is also responsible that the price of rice is still the same.
“Most of our customers buy from in Liberian dollars and we buy from the importers in United States dollars,” Mulbah said.
President Weah said rice importers have reduced the price of a 25kg bag by US$2 while the price of a 50kg bag is reduced by US$4.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the purported 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.
A student of Economics, Darlington Johnson, said President Weah should have commissioned a study before announcing the reduction in the price of rice.
“There President should have allowed his economic management team to do a study before pronouncing the reduction of price."
"It is not just about asking people to reduce rice price, but the sustainability of the reduction. Rice and petroleum are the fastest selling commodities and the government depends on those commodities to generate millions to support its budget,” Johnson said.
He further stated that the government should provide better incentive for the importers in order for the reduction to be effective.
“So you need to look at all the indicators; the next thing is, what incentive is the government providing those business people to warrant the reduction, if the government forces the reduction we will experience artificial shortage, the government is under obligation to provide an enabling environment for businesses and also to protect the interest of the Liberian people,” Johnson added.
During the meeting with rice importers, President Weah reiterated his determination to ensure that something was immediately done to reduce the price and make it affordable and available to averaged Liberians.
At the end of the negotiations, officials of the Association of Liberian Rice Importers consented to effect a reduction of the price.
The Association of Rice Importers headed by their Chairman John Bestman, agreed to reduce the price of the 25Kg bag of rice by US $2 while the price of 50kg bag of rice will be reduced by US $4 with immediate effect.
President Weah had earlier proposed a reduction of US$3 but due to some constraints proffered by rice moguls, it was agreed that the US$3 reduction from the cost of a 25kg bag of rice would not be possible immediately, but that it could still be possible in the future once a few challenges facing the rice market were addressed and the modalities worked out.