Monrovia — When India recently passed more than 20 million Covid Infections recently, the main opposition Congress Party demanded a full national lockdown of the country. The announcement has since triggered concerns that Liberia, which relies heavily on the bulk of its importation of the staple food, rice could be in for trouble.
“We are now forced – there is no option – [we] will have to resort to a national lockdown to break the chain, to restore some order in the health services,” Pawan Khera, a spokesman for the opposition Congress party told the BBC. Rahul Gandhi, a senior Congress leader, said there was no other way to stop the spread of the virus.
Liberia annually imports around 350,000 tonnes from India. That figure has now been reduced to 200 because of lower bookings and India delays of Shipment due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
In 2020, rice imports quantity for Liberia was 380 thousand tonnes. Though Liberia rice imports quantity fluctuated substantially in recent years, it tended to increase through 1971 – 2020 period ending at 380 thousand tonnes in 2020.
Industry observers and importers have been pressing for an increase in the price of rice in a bid to offset the losses. Calls have also heightened for stocks to be increased with importers fearing major losses if things do not improve.
The concerns in Liberia come as calls intensify in India. Besides the opposition, business leaders, international health experts and senior politicians have also joined the call for a lockdown.
Recently, Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top public health expert, described the situation in India as “extremely serious” and said a nationwide lockdown was needed alongside a massive vaccination drive and the construction of makeshift hospitals.
The decision to impose restrictions in India is made by individual state authorities rather than the central government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that states should only consider restrictions as “a last option”.
The pandemic has prompted the Rice Importers Association to launch a campaign for the the government to permit an increment on the price of rice due to rising cost of importation.
According to the Association, there is a worldwide increment in freight while at the same time fees for services at the National Port Authority (NPA) have also gone up.
They expressed fears that there may be shortage of rice on the market if there is no increment in the price.
The importers said their attention has also been drawn to the recent increment of fees of vessel and warehouse operation by the Association of Liberia Stacking Companies.
Since their last agreement with importers in 2016, they have not imposed any increment, but there is now the need for additional charges. In February 2018, President George Weah called a meeting with rice importers in the country where they agreed to reduce the price of rice by US$2-4.