Liberia: Additional Fees at Freeport Likely to Cause Scarcity of Essential Commodities on Local Market

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MONROVIA – Some local businesses in Liberia have expressed concern over the possible shortage of rice and other essential commodities due to increment in several fees and cost of services at the Freeport of Monrovia.

According to the local businesses, despite the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the business community, there continues to be increment in services at the port which is further putting the business community in a tight corner and strangulating them.

They mentioned, increment in demurrage, increment in APM Terminals charges, increments by the stackers union, truckers union, costs of Container Tracking Number (CTN), BiVAC and MedTech Scientific Ltd have all causing serious constraints for the smooth operation of business.

According to the local businesses, with the increasing cost of doing business, there is likely to be an increment in the price of some basic and essential commodities.

“Rice for example, our fear is that we may soon run out of rice on the market become those bringing it may decide to scale down their importation because the government would not allow them to increase the price of rice. You cannot be running into extra expenses and they still expect you to sell at the same price,” a local entrepreneur who asked for anonymity said.

Prior to the reduction, the price of 25kg bag of rice was US$16.00. Since February 2018, rice price has been US$13.00.

In 2018, the Rice Importers Association during a meeting with President Weah, he 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.”

During that meeting with rice importers, President Weah reiterated his determination to ensure that something was immediately done to reduce the price of the rice and make it affordable and available to average 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 agreed to reduce the price of the 25Kg bag of rice by US $2.00 while the price of 50kg bag of rice will be reduced by US $4.00 with immediate effect.

On Tuesday, the chairman of the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL), Mr. Dominic Nimely, in a press conference called on the government to rescind its decision on the various increment in the cost of services at the port else, they as a business community will protest by shutting down all their businesses.

Mr. Nimely said over the weekend, the business people received from the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) additional fees valued a little over US$1100.00 as additional fees which are unfortunate and will not be accepted by the business community.

“We have been crying already with BiVAC and now there is an additional US$200.00 increment. We have over US$1000.00 increased to free a container and it’s very high for businesses now. We were paying US$250.00 BIVAC but now I have a container and I’m informed that I have to pay US$450.00 to BIVAC,” Mr. Nimely.

According to Mr. Nimely, it’s only in Liberia that more than 30 persons own a container of goods, which is a due to lack of finances.

Mr. Nimely said over the weekend, the business people received from the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) additional fees valued a little over US$1100.00 as additional fees which are unfortunate and will not be accepted by the business community.

“We have been crying already with BiVAC and now there is an additional US$200.00 increment. We have over US$1000.00 increased to free a container and it’s very high for businesses now. We were paying US$250.00 BIVAC but now I have a container and I’m informed that I have to pay US$450.00 to BIVAC,” Mr. Nimely.

According to Mr. Nimely, it’s only in Liberia that more than 30 persons own a container of goods, which is a due to lack of finances.

Mr. Nimely said the government through LRA is now asking each importer who has goods to pay US$160.00 for inspection for 20′ container while each importer will be paid US$300 for 40′ container excluding US$280 and US$480 stating “it’s unacceptable.”

Mr. Nimely said the increment of charges from APM Terminals and the LRA are unbearable for business people, stating “the government should be reducing duties and giving incentives to businesses and Liberian owned businesses in particular as a way of encouraging people to come because the government is unable to provide jobs for many people now.”

He said the private sector continues to help in providing jobs for many people in Liberia, but it’s on the opposite which the government is now suffocating business people.

“Again, this is a result of lack of access to finance by business people. With this, the government needs to be helping the business people and not harming them by increasing fees,” Mr. Nimely told reporters.

Mr. Nimely said PATEL is asking the government to revoke the new list of charges released as the business community will not protest but shut down businesses.

“We will allow the government to bring in businesses that they can run because it a death trap. We cannot operate under such an atmosphere. We don’t know what such judgment came out and from whom. This is intended to kill us, business people, because we are already crying on APM Terminals, GTMS, and LRA where they just look in the air and charge businesses,” Mr. Nimely said. 

Mr. Nimely said it’s unfortunate that today in Liberia, someone will buy a car for US$1500 and you pay about US$2500 to ship it and the Liberian government charges you US$2500, which is causing a lot of hindrances to do business in Liberia.

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