Consumers here are complaining of allege hike in prices of essential commodities sold in stores and shops operated by Lebanese, Indian and Fulani merchants in Paynesville, following President George MannehWeah's declaration of a State of Emergency, pending lawmakers' approval to combat COVID-19.
Health officials have announced four deaths and over 30 cases of coronavirus here.
Some buyers who spoke with our reporter in Paynesville say prices for onion, sugar, flour and rice have been hiked, saying dealers allegedly blamed the hike in prices on limited supplies in their warehouses.
Sara Dennis, a local bread producer on Zinnah Hill, discloses that a bag of flour she usually bought at the cost of US$48.00 is now sold for US$60.00.
She complains that the price of onion has risen from US$10.00 to US$12.50; while a bag of sugar jumps to US$55.00 from its previous price of US$45.00.
According to her, the foreign merchants are allegedly engaging in bad business practice without fear that government could take action against them.
For their part, Felecia Koon Wleh, Martha SlewionGeebeh and Willie Kofa also urge the government to act quickly by dispatching inspectors from the Ministries of Commerce and Justice to ensure that business people do not take advantage of the coronavirus crisis and hike prices.
On the other hand, some retailers are complaining that they hardly see customers due to high prices, while also accusing wholesalers of allegedly creating shortages of essential goods.
Authorities at the Ministry of Commerce have been holding discussions with foreign business owners, importers and dealers of some essential commodities requesting their cooperation as the country goes through the coronavirus crisis.
But some businesses appear to be ignoring the ministry's warning by hiking prices.
Recently, the Ministry of Commerce warned business owners against using the coronavirus crisis to hike prices and threatened to arrest and prosecute the owners of any business that engaged in price hiking.
It is not yet established as to how the prices of essential commodities are being sold in other parts of Liberia.By Emmanuel Mondaye--Edited by Winston W. Parley