GoL fallen to Rice Importers?
– Media Investigation Exposes Rice Importers of Exploiting Liberians
The Liberian Government has made some significant strive in its efforts to weed out dubious business practices that bent on exposing the Liberian consuming populace to sub-standard and contaminated products footing in the commerce of the country.
Recently the government through its ministry of commerce and industry nailed Fouani Brothers Corporation for profiteering in the egg business on the local market and has also raided the powerful Abi Jaoudi for dealing in rotten frozen meat and chicken, but it has been notice that government is gradually disinclining in its pursuit for the reduction in the price of the nation’s staple food-Rice.
It can be recalled that president George M. Weah met with the rice importers association of Liberia and it was agreed that the price of both 50Kg and 25Kg begs of rice would have drop $4.00 and $2.00 respectively but since the meeting whether the reduction is taking effect on the market is one thing commerce inspectors failed to follow up.
If even let say the reduction is taking effect on the parallel market there will be no way that consumers could benefit from the reduction adding” the importers who are also distributors continue to reject the Liberia bank note” this situation according to investigation continued to make the reduction unrealistic.
Even though the CDC Government came to power on a major pillar to reduce the suffering of the poor masses of Liberia, amongst other things by reducing the price of the nation’s staple rice on the local market, it appears, the corrupt rice germ has entered the system and has started to consume major commodity regulators.
Business day has been informed that even though the Ministry of Commerce is in the know that the Rice Importers Association has criminally inflicted the price of rice, it is afraid to take action because of powerful forces behind the commodity.
According to our sources, though officials of the ministry of commerce and industry investigation found out that the Rice Importers are engaged in profiteering and have confessed to this crime, it is yet to act because of the powerful forces behind the importers.
As a result of this situation, the pro-poor agenda of the CDC Government has been allegedly abandoned by some officials to please the powerful forces behind the rice deal, against the general interest of the poor and suffering masses of the country which overwhelmingly elected the government.
Following Months of investigation into the importation of rice into the country this institution has unearthed a scam in which rice importers have duping the poor masses.
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 institution 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 online media institution 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 audience with their clients.
They however stated that Johnson Bestman, a Liberian former Government official is the face of the rice cartel. Bestman, a confidante of former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, admitted being the leader of the Rice Importers.
He claimed he runs the Harmony Company, but is yet to import rice. What he has done was to sell what he called his quota-the permit given to his Harmony Company by the Ministry of Commerce to import rice to another Liberian rice importer.
John Bestman during a interview with Business Day Liberia recently could not say who authorized him to sell his permit to another company when he could not import rice directly. When asked whether he was fronting for some former officials in the previous Government of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, he denied, but added that his fiancée was very ill and promised to talk in detail on a later date.
Few weeks ago, Rice Importers Association led by Mr. 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 been cheating the country for over ten years, but agreed to drop the price on a 50kg by $4 and 25kg by $2.
It is almost a month now since these importers met with President George Weah; they are yet to comply with the mandate of the meetings.
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. More to come in our subsequent editions.