Monrovia — Newly appointed Commerce Minister, Mawine G. Diggs has assured Liberians that her ministry is working with major stakeholders including the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to stabilize the prices of commodities on the Liberian market amid a sharp increase in the value of the local currency.
For almost three weeks now, the exchange rate between the US and Liberian dollars has declined drastically, with the value of the Liberian dollars increasing, but the prices of basic commodities have not been affected, prompting ordinary Liberians, mostly vendors to complain.
Addressing a team of reporters at the climax of her tour of major commodities’ importers at the Free Port of Monrovia on Bushrod Island, Minister Diggs said while the increase in the value of the local currency was laudable, the Ministry is working major stakeholders including the CBL and importers to balance the prices. She called on residents to exercise patience as prices will drop gradually.
“The good thing is that the value of the Liberian dollars is increasing and that is a good thing that we must first recognized. But it is important to note that any time the rate fluctuates there is always a room to adjust the prices,” she said.
“The conversation with our business people is that there is a room to either increase or decrease the price a bit. And I know things things will get better. They just need to exercise patience.”
Speaking further, she was quick to mention that sharp increase in value of the local currency is due to the shortage of money on the market, and there was a need for Liberians to embrace internet and electronic banking, and the use of mobile money platform.
Tour of Major Importers
Meanwhile, Minister Diggs, who replaced Professor Wilson Tarpeh, has hit the ground running with a tour of warehouses of major commodities’ importers in Liberia to see firsthand the amount of goods, including the nation’s staple, rice available for consumption.
She told reporters at the climax of her tour on Tuesday that there are more commodities on the ground for consumption and importers have assured her that additional commodities were expected in the country shortly.
“This tour has made us to know that there are more commodities in stock, and is good to know that there is lot of commodities that is coming in country. I am satisfied with what I see in terms of the facilities that these commodities are stored and how they are being handled,” she said.
Madam Diggs also expressed satisfaction over the employment of many Liberians at these entities, adding, “It is quite incredible that they have seen that is a need to incorporate Liberians into the process.
“It is also good to know that Liberians are very active and engaged in the process because with all of the facilities that we visited today, we have seen that they have invested in hiring Liberians, where we have from 350 to 500 Liberians being employed at these various entities. It is quite incredible that they have seen that there is a need to incorporate Liberians into the process, even though they are importers but Liberians are part of it.”
Some of the warehouses visited include the Fouani Brothers Corporation, United Commodities Incorporated (UCI) and the Supplying West Africa Traders (SWAT).
At Fouani Brothers, the Operation Manager, James Dixon told Minister Diggs and her team that 2.1 million bags of rice is currently stored at the warehouse, with additional quantity expected in to the country soon.
At a guided tour of UCI, the entity’s Managing Director, Wahab Dhaini revealed that there are 6,000 metric tons of rice in storage currently, while 4,000 metric tons at the port, awaiting to be offloaded and 19,000 metric tons of rice is expected to arrive by early December 2020.
Meeting with Commerce inspectors
The Minister was accompanied by the Inspector General of the Ministry of Commerce, Josephine Davis. Together, they held meetings with commerce inspectors assigned at the port.
During the meeting, she assured Madam Davis and the team at the port of her unflinching support to enable them perform their duties.
Earlier, the staff, led by the Port Coordinator, Benedict Wreh named the lack of logistics and stationeries as some of the challenges they are encountering in the discharge of their duties.
IG David, in a briefing, told the Minister that upon the inception of the Weah-led administration, people who were not employee of the Commerce Ministry were impersonating and extorting money from importers for their own benefits, but the ministry has addressed the situation.