Liberia: Agriculture Minister Says Plan to Transfer Rice Subsidy to Production Risky

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Monrovia – Liberia’s Agriculture Minister, Jeanine Cooper has cautioned senators against a proposal aimed at transferring money provided to rice importers as subsidy to the rice production sector of the agricultural ministry.

Addressing the Senate Tuesday, Minister Cooper explained that Liberia’s production of rice is far below the capacity that could compensate for the importation of rice on the Liberian Market.

The Minister however urged Senators instead, make rice production a national priority in a bid to avoid the dependency syndrome to produce Liberia’s staple food because she believes the situation can be solved.

Minister Cooper stated: “Should we stop providing subsidy to importers and give it to the agriculture? It is possible but risky. We are not at a level to compensate for import. Liberia is the only country in West Africa doing that. The suggestion is doable but risky we need to plan well.”

The Minister was also careful in responding to questions surrounding the provision of US$ 11Million as subsidy to rice importers through the Ministries of Finance and Commerce as she claimed low-key role in such discussion.

The minister stressed the need for a national conference on the production of rice for local consumption something she believe could solve the problem of rice shortages on the Liberian market. In her view, a national conference on rice production will help in addressing some of the hurdles and formulate a solution.

Last week Thursday, the Senate sitting in committee of a whole rejected the excuses from the Ministers of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah and Agriculture, Jeanine M. Cooper for failing to honor the senate citation for them to appear before Senate plenary.

Plenary believed that the two Ministers, instead of sending excuses, should have instructed their principal deputies to appear on their behalf.

The two Ministers were mandated to appear before the Liberian Senate on today Tuesday, November 1, 2022, at 12 noon to show reason(s) why they should not be held in contempt.

 The decision was triggered by a vote taken by Plenary after their letters of excuse were read stating that they both are out of the Country and asked that Plenary reschedule their appearances. 

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate sitting as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday conducted the Public Hearing on the Ministers of Finance and Development Planning as well as Commerce to get clarity on how the Eleven Million United States Dollars (11,000,000.00) United States Dollars subsidy for rice importers was utilized.

The Legislature recently allotted eleven Million United States Dollars in the current 2022 fiscal budget as subsidy to the Ministry of Commerce for rice importers.

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