MONROVIA — Scarcity of rice, Liberia’s staple food, has hit the local market, an investigation by FrontPageAfrica has established.
FrontPageAfrica correspondent’s visits to some of the major markets and retailers outlets within and around Monrovia showed that there were no rice on display or in stock for sale to consumers.
Some retail traders at major markets and distributors of the product told our reporter that they had yet to restock after exhausting the stocks they had since three weeks.
One of the rice dealers, Sam Mulbah, said he’s still expecting new stocks which he had ordered two weeks ago. “For the past two weeks, no rice has been in my store despite getting assurances that rice will be in the country soon,” he said.
“I paid for new stocks of rice but unfortunately they had yet to be delivered.
“Once l receive a phone call from Alausa to come and pick the products, l will go and pick them. “The delivery is usually on first come first serve, so l am waiting for my turn,” he said.
Another distributor, only identified as Sheriff, said he ran out of stocks since two weeks. “Since then, l have been waiting for new supplies of rice from the importer bit to no avail.
According to him, it is a difficult time for their businesses as they have been out of rice for the past two weeks.
Timothy Johnson is the owner of Blessing Business Center, a store at the Waterside Market. He sells different commodities, but according to him, nothing gives him more income than the sale he makes from bags of rice daily.
“We can’t do anything, we are just sitting down, we are facing difficulty, people are coming to buy rice and we’ re out of stock. It is a big problem we are facing right now.
Small Businesses are accusing Importers of being responsible for the looming scarcity of rice on the market.
Many store owners accused importers of refusing to sell rice to them for the past two weeks.
Mastapha Jalloh is the salesman at the A.J. Trading Enterprise, a store at the Rally Town Market in Monrovia. He said for two weeks, he has been to several importers to buy rice to sell but to no avail.
“When we go to the company, the people who are importing the rice, they tell us that they are not selling rice to us. It has been more than two weeks now,” Jalloh said.
He added: “The people say they do not want to sell their rice to us. We asked them what the problem is, they cannot tell us anything. We want the Commerce Ministry to intervene so as to avoid hoarding”.
“You see, my store is empty, no rice here, even when you check to the next store, no rice there, all the stores are empty, when we go to the importers we cannot get the rice. So, we do not know where the problem is coming from.”
“I cannot say whether the importers have the rice or not because they cannot allow us to go into their warehouses. Maybe rice there but we don’t know. So, the government should go there to know what is going on,” Jalloh added.
Commerce Ministry Knows About What is Going On
During the FPA tour, many business owners including Jalloh pointed fingers at the Ministry of Commerce, accusing the ministry for being responsible for the shortage of rice on the Liberian market.
Jalloh disclosed it is the second time for businesses to experience the shortage of rice in this year, but however said, it is the first time for them to be entering in the third week without rice on their shelves.
“It is not the first time for rice to get shortage on the market and every time it happens, the Commerce Ministry can blame us. They can say that we have the rice and that we are hiding the rice in order to create scarcity.”
He added: “They will not go to the importers and ask them why they are not selling the rice to the small business people like us. The Commerce Ministry knows about all of the things that are happening. They are responsible for the rice shortage. They can’t go to the importers but they can come to small businesses like us. I don’t know whether they have forgotten that we are not importers.
Jacob Parley, communication director of the Ministry of Commerce when asked whether his entity is aware of the shortage of rice on the Liberian market, Parley told FPA that he was not in the position to speak to the subject.
“I cannot say that we are in the know or not. What I can say is all of the concerns that are coming from business people and the media –I have forwarded all of those concerns to my bosses and they said they will respond appropriately,” he said.