Freeport — The Ministry of Commerce and major rice importers in Liberia have denied rumors that there is a shortage of the nation's staple food on the market.
There have been widespread speculations of the shortage of rice on the market following the confirmation of the coronavirus cases in Liberia.
This has led to a panic and illogical increase in the price of rice on the market by some unscrupulous individuals including retailers.
The Ministry of Commerce, in a bid to verify that there is n adequate supply of rice in the country, On Wednesday, March 25 led a team of journalists and staff to the warehouses of four major rice importers including Fouta Trading Corps, Founi Brothers Incorporated, Supplying West Africa Traders Incorporated (SWAT) and the United Commodities Incorporated (UCI).
Speaking to reporters following a tour of several warehouses belonging to major rice importers in Liberia, the Minister of Commerce, Prof. Wilson Tarpeh said there is 34,000 metric tons of rice currently on the market, and about 35,000 metric tons is about to arrive soon.
Meanwhile, leading the inspection at the Freeport of Monrovia, the Inspector General of the Ministry of Commerce, Josephine Davis warned those taking advantage of the prevailing situation and hiking the price of rice to desist, or they will face the full weight of the law.
"People are making use of the situation to increase prices. But we have our inspectors in the field, and we have closed seven rice shops. They were selling a 25kg for US$16 to US$17," she said.
"Importers sell to them for US$13 (minimum price for a 25kg), and transport it for them. So, they need to add 50 cents to sell at US$13.50. But if we catch you selling rice more than US$13.50, you will be dealt with. We will revoke their license because you are telling us that you don't mean well for the society."
Meanwhile, at the pier, a cargo ship, the Ocean Falcon was seen offloading a huge quantity of rice, put at 31,000 metric tons jointly imported by Fouta Trading Corps, Founi Brothers Incorporated and UCI.
At the warehouses, FrontPage Africa observed dozens of customers purchasing rice in huge quantities, with some opting to transport their goods all by themselves, instead of the importers.
Ali M. Jichi, Warehouse Manager of Founi Brothers, speaking to reporters said the rush was ridiculous as his entity has a huge supply that could last for the next six months.
"We have rumors going around that there is rice shortage and that is not true. This is causing panic and customers are rushing to buy rice. Rice is here and no need to rush and don't increase the price," he said.
Thomas Katiah, Human Resource and Operational Manager of UCI, also speaking, assured the public that UCI will not run out of rice.
"We have huge quantities that can take us up to August, and when we get the other shipment, we can go up to December. So, there is no need to panic," Katiah said.