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By: Leila B. Gbati

Jeanine Copper, the Minister of Agriculture in Liberia, has revealed that the country’s current rice crisis can be resolved when Liberians grow the type of rice that they eat.

On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, Minister Cooper made the announcement when she appeared before the plenary of the Liberian Senate to provide information on the shortage of rice and USD $11 million subsidy to importers of the country’s staple food.

She stated that Liberia’s public policies have, for the past 43 years, consciously chosen the direction of supporting the import of the country’s staple food over the production of rice in the country itself. This choice has been made in favor of supporting the import of rice.

Minister Cooper stated that Liberians only think or talk about rice production when there is a rice crisis in the country. She added that the Ebola crisis should have taught Liberians a lesson that they cannot depend on other countries to always produce the country’s staple food, which is rice. Rice is a staple food in the Liberian diet.

She mentioned that Liberia imported 23,000 metric tons of rice in 1960, 400,000 metric tons in 2021, and that 520,000 metric tons of rice will be consumed in the country over the next five years.

She went on to say that in order to effectively manage rice production, the Ministry of Agriculture is currently collecting resources to use in developing sustainable projects.

She stated that the Agriculture Ministry has nothing to do with rice imports and that the Agriculture Ministry was never involved in the discussion, decision, or use of the US $11 million subsidy for importers. She also stated that the Agriculture Ministry was never involved in the use of the subsidy.

“The information about the U.S. $11 million for subsidy to importers of the country’s staple food was obtained by the Ministry of Agriculture through the media like any other citizen,” she said.

In addition, the Minister of Agriculture stated that the request for public sector investment in food production had been denied in each and every one of the ministry’s proposed budgets since the fiscal year 2020/2021, covering the period from July to December 2021/2022, as well as the period from January to December 2022.

She said, “I was one of those in the private sector who first decided to tackle commercial production of rice after April 14, 1979, and in 1989-1990 I was in the process of opening the first commercial mill outside of LMPC in Kakata.” “I was one of those in the private sector who first decided to tackle commercial production of rice after April 14, 1979.”

With this information, what will the lawmakers do, is anybody’s guess.

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