-Importers Caught In Profiteering
Months of investigation into the importation of rice into the country has unearthed a scam in which rice importers have duped the poor masses of the country.
According to our discovery, rice exporters in Asia charged between US$13.50 and US$14.50 for a 50kg (big bag) of India or Thai parboiled rice, but the importers would deliberately inflates this figure on the IPDs sent to the Ministry of Commerce and Industries.
Investigation further revealed that in most cases, major rice importers have stopped the importation of the 50kg (Big) bags and are mostly trading in 25kg (small bags) of rice as a means of perpetuating their scheme.
For instance, couples of IPDs obtained by this paper which the importers sent to the Ministry of Commerce revealed that a 25kg bag of the parboiled rice was sold by exporters at US$14.50.
Contrary to this scam, our investigation found out that the price placed on the IPDs as exporters price of the 25kg, is instead that of the 50kg bag of rice.
The Third World Investment and Development Corporation Inc., an International Development, Investment and Trade Corporation on Sunday February 25, 2018 revealed its commodity Quote for Africa which included Liberia.
The company revealed that Thai white, long grain, 5% broken is sold for US$13.50 or US$270 for a metric ton. A metric ton of 50kg of rice is 20 bags, while a metric ton of the 25kg is 40 bags.
This price is the same for Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and other West African nations, according to the International Rice trader.
The Thai Rice Exporters Association (TREA) also revealed almost similar amount for a 50kg of a bag of rice.
Conversely, half of the price is sold for a 25kg bag of 5% broken white rice. That means that a 25kg bag of Indian or Thai white is sold for between US$6.75 to US$7 by exporters.
HAS, a Pakistani IRRI6 Rice Exporter to Liberia has shown similar prices.
The Liberian Government has removed tariff from rice for the past two years, yet the prices of rice on the local market never dropped.
Last year, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf renewed the removal of tariff on Rice.
Executive Order No. 45, titled “Extension of Executive Order No. 19, Suspension of Tariff on Rice,” states that the Government of Liberia, in its desire to continue bringing relief to the public, is extending Executive Order No. 19, suspending the import tariff on rice as classified under tariff Nos. 1006.30.00 (in packing of more than 5kg or in bulk); 1006.30.00 (in packing of at least 5kg); and 1006.40.00 (broken rice) under the Revenue Code of Liberia Act 2000 with immediate effect.”
Every attempt made by this paper to speak with major importers in the country failed up to press time. Public relations people linked to the companies insist on seeing evidence against their entities before they can allow this paper speak with their clients.
They however stated that Johnson Bestman, a Liberian former Government official is the face of the rice cartel. Calls place to him on his mobile phone failed.
Rice Importers’ Meeting with President Weah
Few weeks ago, Rice Importers Association led by John Bestman met with the new Liberia President and misled him on the situation of rice importation, to the level that President George Weah, for the love of the citizens of the country pleaded with them to lower their prices.
Unfortunately, the Rice Importers Association failed to tell the new Liberia Leader that they have cheated the country for over ten years, but agreed to drop the price on a 50kg by $4 and 25kg by $2.
It is almost two weeks since these importers met with the President; they are yet to comply with mandate of the meeting.
But why did Rice Importers Succeed In duping the poor masses Unnoticed?
Some patriotic employees of the Ministry of Commerce said they pitied that the new Liberia President met with the Rice Importers without a background check.
“I am not very sure that the President is aware that the issue of rice importation in Liberia is a real Cartel-a group of mostly foreign Business people who in most cases conspired and connived with some Government officials to exploit the poor masses”, said one of the employees.
In the past Government, directives are given from the Executive Mansion to process the IPDs of some major Rice Importers. “You dare not to comply or get lost from your job”, said another Commerce Ministry staff.
A first family member of the former regime would threaten any Journalist who dare question a major Rice Importers here, according to another employee of the Ministry of Commerce. This was confirmed by some Journalists.
Liberia’s rice importers buy from few of the top ten Rice Exporting Countries in the World that include China, Thailand, Pakistan, USA, India, etc.
A price of a 25kg bag of rice should not exceed US$10 and a price of a 50kg bag of rice not exceeds US$20 on the Liberian market that is if all charges including taxes are included, according to investigation. Read more in our next edition.