15 February 2013

Liberia: Japanese Rice in Rigmarole

Investigation conducted by this paper indicates that Commerce Minister Miata Beyslow has given huge consignment of the second shipment of rice donated by the Government of Japan to the United Commodities Incorporated (UCI), a local importer here.

The UCI is presently indebted to the Government of Liberia for the first consignment of rice it received for sale. Investigation revealed that United Commodities Incorporated (UCI) is indebted to the government from the first consignment of the Japanese rice in the tune of US$150,000.

Despite the debt, the Commerce Ministry has turned over another consignment of rice valued at US$500,000 to the UCI management on grounds that the company will settle its financial obligation subsequently.

Minister Beyslow is said to be in close ties with UCI Chief Financier, Mr. Anwar Ezedine, a Lebanese businessman, who is also Chief Executive Officer of a road construction company, SSF.

In accordance with the Exchange of Notes signed between the governments of Liberia and Japan in November 2011, the approximately 10,000 tons of rice were to be sold on the local market at a reduced price, with a targeted proceeds of US$4 million to be kept in a Counterpart Fund.

The Counterpart Fund of the previous grant is being used for the purchase and redistribution of paddy rice, and introduction of modern technologies to optimize rice production.

Mr. Shigeru Hamano, Deputy Chief of Mission of Japan, said the successful implementation of the previous Food Aid has given his country a boost of confidence in providing more Food Aid to Liberia. He then hoped that the Government of Liberia will further strengthen the effective implementation of the grant.

However, when Commerce Minister Beyslow was contacted, she could neither confirm nor deny the issue, but promised to respond at a later date.

"I cannot say anything about this information, but check with some of my deputies and get back in the soonest possible time", said the Commerce Boss.

However, subsequent efforts by this writer proved unsuccessful as the Commerce Minister was said to be in an important meeting.

Universal Commodities Incorporated General Manager, Samuel Fairley, who was also contacted via mobile phone several times last week Thursday, declined to give detail surrounding the rice, on grounds that he's running a private company that is not accountable to The NewDawn.

He then referred this paper to Commerce Minister Miata Beyslow for any information about the Japanese donated rice as all transactions were made between his company and the ministry.

In March 2008, the Japanese Government and the Liberian Government signed an Exchange of Note for the first consignment of Food Aid in the tone of 8,617 metric tons of rice for monetization to support social economic development projects in Liberia.

A total of US$ 4million was realized and the amount was used to finance the paddy and feeder rice project being executed by the Cooperative Development Agency with the Ministry of Agriculture exercising oversight authority.

Also in March 2010, the Governments of Liberia and Japan signed another Separate Exchange of Notes for additional consignment of rice in the tone of 19,101 metric tons which the Commerce Ministry says is still being monetized.

The ministry added that part of that agreement also included mixed petroleum products of 12,404 metric tons valued at US$25 million with proceeds to be directed at Liberia's Social Economic Development.

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