MONROVIA – Rice, Liberians’ staple food, might be in short supply soon. Importers are pointing to several factors which they believe if the government fails to intervene would leave them with no option but to put a stay on imports.
“Our officials in government need to know that we don’t grow rice in Liberia. Have they ever thought of what could happen when we all stop importing? What is hurting our business is the fact the Ministry of Commerce appears to be insensitive to our plights and losses and this is very discouraging,” some importers who asked not to be named said.
They mentioned the Commerce Ministry’s refusal to sign Import Permit Declaration (IPD) and a litany of ever-increasing fees at the sea ports as some major factors hampering their businesses here.
They disclose that the current shortage of eggs, onions and other frozen foods which form part of the everyday Liberian dishes is due to the Commerce Ministry’s unexplained refusal to sign IPDs.
The Commerce Ministry has on several occasions failed to provide comments on why IPDs are not issued in a timely manner.
“The prices of eggs and onions have gone up and this is anti-pro-poor. We certainly believe that this is not what the Liberian people signed up to and this is not what President George Weah promised the Liberian people. However, we cannot blame the President for what is happening; the Ministry of Commerce and the National Port Authority are actually killing our businesses and directly imposing hardship on the Liberian people,” they said.
They disclosed that despite the increment of charges at the sea ports and the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic globally which has made doing business globally difficult, they have not gotten any incentive from the government and are being compelled to sell rice at a price that is causing loses for them.
“We can understand why the government would want to control the price of rice because it’s a national security issue. However, the government at the same time cannot sit supinely and let our businesses dwindle. If the charges at the ports cannot be reduced, then we must have some incentives that would keep us afloat. But as it is, other investors wanting to come to do business in Liberia would be discouraged because of the loses involved in doing business here,” they said.
They stated that due to the loses some of them are now contemplating on reducing their import and the rate at which they import.
“When the ships bring our goods, we don’t get the IPDs so the ship stay long at the port and we continue to incur charges on demurrage. The failure of someone to do their job adequately and with fairness is causing us a lot of money and we cannot continue to do business like that,” they said.
They continued, “Some of us also do business in other countries and some of us have partners in other countries, and their case is different. They are sometimes shocked when we explain our ordeal here.”