By: Julius T. Jaesen, II
It’s disdainfully appalling as our homeland suffers from the deadly effects of the Coronavirus pandemic to yet in critical times like these be experiencing rice shortage or an astronomic hike in the price of rice. Since the cradle of our nation’s existence, rice has since been our national staple and remains a political commodity.
However, in 2018 when Minister Samuel D. Tweah, the National Orator of Liberia 171th Independence Day, in a loud sounding phrase, pronounced that the CDC’s government would endeavor to bring to a climax the reign of imported rice as a political commodity. He further promised that their government will invest in local food production to feed its 5 million people. For many Liberians home and abroad, it was a message of hope. But for our rural farmers, it was a golden recourse and opportunity to invest in them and develop their local capacities and skills. This, if implemented, according to local rice farmers, it will encourage them to stay on their land and produce rice as both a subsistence crop and a cash crop, instead of abandoning their farms for jobs in the cities or on the rubber plantations.
Sadly embarrassing, the government has leapfrogged from its commitment and promised to massively invest in local food production to feed her small population. In a crisis like this where our country is being locked down by the government due to the Coronavirus pandemic that is wreaking havoc, with people placed out of jobs and cannot feed their families, the price of rice has astronomically jumped from 2,800 Liberian dollars to 4,500.00. This on the part of the government is a quintessential displayed of mass incompetence and deep-seated ineptitude.
The hike in the price of rice has the potential to undermine national security and plunge the country into crisis especially in a time where our citizens have been laid off their jobs and some businesses closed as a result of the scourge and nemesis of Covid-19. Let us not sit idly idle and be impervious and averse to the reality of the April 14, 1979 rice riot led by the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) of the late Gabriel Baccus Matthews and strongly supported by MOJA that witnessed the death of over 40 civilians, the arrest of 100 of our citizens by state security and the destruction of properties placed at the value of US$40 million as well as mass looting that went on in various streets in Monrovia.
We, as a country and people, must not sit and condone the reminiscence or reemergence of the deadly April 14 where the government, through its Minister of Agriculture, Florence Chenoweth, announced the increase in the price of rice from $22 to 26 dollars. No, we must not afford to send our country back to its unhappy and sad past.
During the very outset of this hike in the price of rice, we green-lighted the government but disappointingly, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, through its Minister Wilson Tarpeh, declined report of rice shortage and price increase. But painfully shocking, our people are buying rice today even at $4500.00 Liberian dollars in a crisis time where the government’s promise of rice distribution has become a 419 scheme. This on the part of our government is a gross display of profound insincerity and nasty dishonesty. You cannot lie to our population like this. Free food supplies for the most part is still a faraway dream for many areas in the country why some people say it has failed in essence and are non-existing, worst of all, the country is locked down and rice price has astronomically increased. This, in essence, is double jeopardy.
The Parrot requests the government to address itself to the sharp increase in the price of our national staple, rice in order to ease the already burdensome tension on our citizenry.
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