23 April 2019

Liberia: UCI, Swat Clarify Media Report

The managements of the United Commodities Incorporated (UCI) and the Supplying West Africa Trader (SWAT) have denied the April 17, 2019 edition of the New Democrat newspaper, one of local dailies, labeling the two companies as a "cartel" of rice importers.

Among other things, the newspaper insinuated that UCI and SWAT are allegedly selling a 25 kilograms bag of rice on local market for US$20, and that two rice importers have due advantage of the storage facilities at the Free Port of Monrovia over the other rice importers in the country.

But the managements of UCI and SWAT in a joint press release issued in Monrovia on Friday, April 19, 2019, described the newspaper's story as "malicious and incorrect," saying it is intended to confuse the general public, and also create a bewildering environment for the business community and the consumers of the country's staple food, rice.

"The story was based on mere speculations intended to push an agenda for some people, who are not serious. We would like to state that the price of a 25kg bag of rice is sold by UCI and SWAT for US$13, and not US$20 as reported by the newspaper. Secondly, to own a warehouse at the Free Port of Monrovia, is not a condition for importing rice," the press release clarified.

"When President George Weah came to power, the first thing he did was to ask the rice importers to reduce the price of rice on the market. That was done without hesitation, regardless of the losses the importers sustained. And moreover, storage facilities at the Free Port of Monrovia are leased by the relevant government agency. It is not restricted or reserved for any special person or company. Whichever company or individual that affords the lease price is given it," the press release further quoted the managements of the two rice importers.

"Publishing or broadcasting unfounded information is unethical, and also cast aspersion over the credibility of the media or journalist involved in such unwarranted act. And furthermore, innuendos that are acrid of yellow journalism, image tainting and blackmailing, does not only harm the business entities or individuals, but also the Liberian nation and people," the managements of the two rice importers said.

While expressing disdain and outrage over the newspaper report, the managements of UCI and SWAT, however, encourage journalists and media houses to always double check their information before reporting it.

"UCI and SWAT, which are considered the leading rice importers in the country, are not only interested to make profits, but to also ensure the availability of the nation's staple food on the local market as well as to support the much publicized "Pro-poor" Agenda of President Weah, the press release added.

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