Fouani Brothers Incorporated face the wrath of new Commerce Minister Tarpeh.
In the wake of a shortage of commodities on the market, including eggs, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) has discovered that Fouani Brothers Incorporated hiked the price of eggs, for which the company was fined US$25,000 for deliberately, blatantly and willfully violating the Competition Law of 2016.
Section 5.7 of the Competition Law of 2016 imposes a monetary penalty for any violator in an amount not exceeding US$100,000.
The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Wilson Tarpeh, made the assertion yesterday in Monrovia during a press conference indicating that a communication has been delivered to Fouani Brothers and the money will be paid to the Liberian Revenue Authority (LRA) within 72 hours.
Minister Tarpeh said Fouani Brothers unilaterally hiked the price of eggs from the stipulated price of US$35.89 per carton of 360 eggs to US$70, describing the action by the egg distributor as a flagrant violation of the Competition Law.
"When authorities at the ministry confronted Fouani on February 23 with the evidence, which included Import Permit Declaration (IPD), supplier invoices, sale invoices, custom payments and port charges among others, Fouani admitted to the violation without any contestation and pleaded for mercy and leniency, indicating this was the first offense, "Minister Tarpeh said.
The minister said while the CDC led-government stands ready to support and encourage private investment, it will not accept any attempt by any business entity to conduct itself in an unlawful and inappropriate manner that will undermine the orderliness of commerce and trade and bring unwarranted hardship on citizens.
Minister Tarpeh said the investigation is ongoing to identify the cause for the recent shortage of eggs and the increase in its price.
"If any business is found culpable for this act, the government will not hesitate to take appropriate action in keeping with the law. We expect businesses in this country to function in line with the law, as any act contrary to this would face the full weight of the law," the new commerce minister indicated.
Minister Tarpeh maintained that the days of indiscriminate price hiking, especially for essential commodities like eggs, gasoline and food items, in the commerce and trade of Liberia were over.
From left: Deputy Minister Jamima Wolokolie along with Minister Tarpeh who addressed the media and Josephine W. Davies, Inspector General of Liberia
He indicated that a robust inspectorate regime is required to clean up the market of sub-standard and expired goods while instituting quality standards, appropriate pricing as well as ensuring fairness and the best value for consumers.
"This government will not accept attempts to be exploited by businesses to the detriment of Liberian people who overwhelmingly elected this pro-poor government. The government will remain engaged with the business community for the wellbeing of its citizens," Minister Tarpeh said.
Commenting on the decrease in the price of rice, Minister Tarpeh said the CDC led-government discovered that rice importers were adding additional fees, which were unnecessary and needed to be removed.
Minister Tarpeh further indicated that there is no loss in the reduction of the price of rice by the importers and that the government is working to have the market open. "President Weah indicated that Liberians will not be spectators in their own economy and this is the agenda of the new commerce team," he said.
According to him, President Weah - and authorities at the commerce ministry - is prepared to work with local producers, including rice, to ensure that Liberians are empowered, noting that the lack of 'road to market connectivity' and finance continue to hamper production.
He added that the new commerce team is dedicated, committed, motivated and united in upholding and implementing President Weah's unapologetic statement that "Liberians will no longer be spectators in their own economy."
Meanwhile, Minister Tarpeh said enough gasoline is expected in the country on Thursday, but that there is no huge shortage of said commodity on the market.