By Sallu K. Swaray
“If any dealer caught hiking the price of rice in the country; said dealer will be made to bear the full weight law, he they will be penalized in accordance with the commerce ministry law” the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has warned.
Commerce Minister Wilson K. Tarpeh who sounded the caveat was reacting to the hike for cost of a bag of rice, and speculation concerning scarcity of the nation’s staple food on the market.
“We will do everything possible to take the necessary action to stop this habit; and if we find out that you are engaged in the dubious practice of arbitrarily increasing the rice price in the country to exploit the Liberian people, we will confiscate your rice,” the Commerce Minister further warned.
The warning by the Commerce Minister comes in the wake of the hike of the price of the price of rice on the Liberian market from L$2800 to more than L$3000 amidst what is considered scare by the public for rice shortage. ,
But the Minister called on the public not to panic as sufficient rice has still been in stock for sale.
Commerce and Industry Minister Tarpeh said there is enough rice in the country, blaming the speculation on some rice dealers who, he said, have been creating artificial shortage of the commodity to cause chaos for the government.
Speaking on a local radion station yesterday, the Commerce Minister explained that about 35 to 40 thousand metric tons of rice are expected in the country this Saturday, saying that the expected consignment will last for three months.
By August, he disclosed that another consignment of 55 thousand tons of rice is expected to be brought into the country and indicated that this second consignment will last up to the end of the year.
The Commerce Minister emphatically stated that there are detractors who want to hike the price of rice in the country, but added that the government is going after them.
Minister Tarpeh further threatened that punitive measures await would- be hoarder of rice for profiteering, wondering why would someone want to sell the cost for a 25kg bag of rice at L$3000.
Mr. Tarpeh described as “wrong” the increase of the cost for a bag of rice by those unscrupulously dealers, and noted that doing so has serious consequences that have the propensity to cause unrest the society.
He averred that the Ministry of Commerce has already given its hotlines telephone numbers out to the public to report to the Ministry of Commerce those who will flout the orders of the Ministry.
“The commodities of any group of persons, stores or shops owners, who flout our position by engaging in the sale of rice above the stipulated price, will be seized, and violators prosecuted,” he said.
The Commerce Ministry boss also disclosed that the Ministry has inspected various warehouses, and is now continuing to inspect stores to ensure that no one hikes the price of rice to create fear for the people as anyone found in unwholesome habits on the market will be dealt with severely.