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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Liberia: Boakai Moves to Dismantle Rice Cartel

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By Festus Poquie

President Joseph Boakai Wednesday named a veteran diplomat to head the presidential taskforce that would open the rice market, put homegrown traders into the import business and eventual break the cartel controlling the industry while reintroducing a more than four decades  pool fund that could provide loan or stimulus to local farmers.

Ambassador Charles Minor, a career foreign service professional who holds the view that Liberia’s peace and stability hinges on a vibrant private sector that creates jobs, chairs the Committee on Rice mandated to formulate policies that will ensure the constant supply and stability of Liberia’s staple food.

This move comes as a strategic effort to address the challenges faced in rice production, distribution, and importation and pricing within the country.

The newly formed Committee on Rice is tasked with a number of key objectives, including the formulation of policies to guarantee a consistent and steady supply of rice in Liberia.

According to a statement released by the office of the President, the committee will work towards developing strategies to boost local rice production, reduce import dependency, and promote Liberian participation in the importation and distribution of rice across the nation.

One of the significant responsibilities of the committee is to devise a plan for the effective reactivation and management of the Rice Stabilization Fund, aimed at stabilizing rice prices in the market.  The fund was first introduced in the 1970s during the administration of President William Richard Tolbert.

The committee will also establish a comprehensive database on rice, conduct price comparisons with major rice-producing countries, and assess the quality of rice grades available in the market.

Liberia’s rice industry have fostered an oligopolistic market, with a handful of importers wielding outsized influence.

These powerful foreign rice importers operating in Liberia with the aid of officials have earned huge fortune in decades via a scheme that beats away competitors mainly Liberians leaving them as the sole lords in a multimillion-dollar market

The Committee on Rice is comprised of notable individuals and representatives from various sectors crucial to the rice industry, including Amb. Charles Minor as Chairman, along with members from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, Fouta Corporation, National Port Authority, Liberia Business Association, Liberia Marketing Association, and other key stakeholders.

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