Hon. Amin Modad, Minister of Commerce
Hon. Amin Modad, Minister of Commerce.

Commerce Ministry Refutes Mercenary Journalist Sekou Sheriff’s Claims, Clarifies Rice Import, Pricing, and Distribution

Monrovia – The Ministry of Commerce and Industry strongly rejects the false accusations made against Minister of Commerce Hon. Amin Modad by mercenary journalist Sekou Sheriff, who has a well-documented record of unethical behavior and lack of integrity.

The entire nation is aware of how Sekou Sheriff is an unethical, unprofessional "jumpy-jack" paid to tarnish people's reputations. On Wednesday evening, he substantiated once again his gross lack of integrity by spreading false and misleading information, suggesting that Mr. Modad, in a meeting, asked rice importers for $0.25 from each bag of rice sold at $17.00.

What is more laughable is that this paid smear campaigner, known for his hoax reports, in his failed attempt to discredit Minister Modad, lied until he sadly ended up lying to himself just to perpetuate his unprincipled behavior and malicious intent.

In Mr. Sekou Sheriff’s Facebook post, he initially states that the rice importers during a meeting "refused to accept Minister Modad’s request for $0.25 USD on each bag of rice sold at the price of $17.00 USD." He then says this refusal "eventually led to the increment to 17.00 USD to settle all sides: importers, Minister, and stakeholders." Sekou’s shameful contradiction lies in the fact that, according to him, the rice importers refused to accept the request to sell rice at $17.00 USD, but he then says the price was increased to $17.00 USD anyway. Contrary to his lies, the public can attest to the fact that it was through Minister Modad’s effort and negotiations with the rice importers that they rather reduced the price of rice from $17 to $16.75 in February.

Mr. Sheriff must understand that journalism is a calling not an opportunity to hustle; as a calling, it demands a sense of morality, professional skills, and professional aims, ALL VIRTUES he clearly lacks.  

Contextual Overview of Nationwide 

The Ministry of Commerce takes this to reassures the public that there is NO SHORTAGE OF RICE and the price of the 25kg Bag of 5% Broken Indian Parboiled Rice remains at $16.75 as instructed by President Joseph N. Boakai. Furthermore, there are other varieties of rice on the market, some sold lower than the $16.75.

Minister Modad commenced work at the MOCI on February 6, 2024, and was immediately brought up to speed on the existing challenges and previous dialogues with rice importers that had been initiated under the Weah-led government. Notably, a communication dated October 3, 2023, included a request to increase the price of the 5% Broken Indian Parboiled Rice (IR64) from $17 to $20 per bag. In their communication to the previous administration and to Minister Modad, they highlighted several factors for their request, primarily that a 20% export duty was imposed by India on this rice variety, significantly impacting the cost structure for importers. They also expressed additional concerns over escalating costs due to increased shipping and insurance rates, fueled by geopolitical tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East. They also highlighted several domestic issues contributing to their operational costs, including multiple and increased fees from APM Terminal and the National Port Authority (NPA) alongside bureaucratic delays that exacerbated their financial burdens. The MOCI immediately sought to understand the policies and regulations that were in place governing rice importation and to verify their concerns. We also sought to establish the stock of rice in country and verify that sufficient rice was being shipped to avoid shortage or scarcity.

It is worth noting that the previous administration opted not to address their requests despite the implications; the requests were rather deferred to the incoming leadership. Additionally, it is important to note the context of prior poor engagement with the rice importers by the former administration, which contributed to a severe rice shortage and an inflation of rice prices to about $25 per bag something in 2022; in fact, it was reported that rice was sold for up to $35 per bag on the black market.  In response to this crisis, a subsidy of $22 million was earmarked to support the importers, yet only $11 million was presumably disbursed, with outstanding claims from some of the importers who did not receive their share of subsidy disbursed.

Since Minister Modad’s appointment and subsequent confirmation by the Liberian Senate, he has made verifiable strides to address these issues and ensure that   Liberia’s staple food—rice—is available and affordable.
Some concrete steps taken by the Minister are listed below:

  1. Before taking over as minister, there were 6 major importers of rice on the market, all inherited from the last administration.  No Liberian was granted Import Permit Duties (IPDs) to bring in large volumes of rice during the previous administration. However, within just four months, Minister Modad has granted 3 permits out of the 5 new applications; they are all Liberian enterprises.
  2. In consideration of the global factors impacting rice prices and supply, Minister Modad has prevailed on all importers to bring in other varieties of rice to provide cheaper alternatives and choices to the citizens.
  3. Minister Modad also negotiated with the importers to invest in the local production and supply of rice. They have agreed to provide $200,000.00 towards setting up a packaging facility to aggregate and package the domestically grown country rice from local farmers to be distributed by the imported along with the imported rice.
  4. The MOCI is also in discussions with bilateral and other development partners to explore opportunities to source affordable rice, provide funding for Liberian entrepreneurs to enter into the rice importation space, and to create a Rice Buffer Stock to serve as an emergency reserve in case of any shocks that would impact supply and pricing.
  5. The MOCI is working with the Office of the President and other agencies to develop a holistic long-term strategy to address food security and self-sustainability with rice being a priority.
  6. The MOCI is now developing more predictable administrative regulations for the importation and distribution of rice, considering the entire trade and production value chain from importation to how rice is retailed across the country.
  7. Minister Modad and his team have also rolled out the rebranded Inspectorate Devision of the MOCI with a mandate to ensure that vendors do not sell the 25kg Bag of 5% Broken Indian Parboiled Rice above the government-set price ceiling.
  8. The MOCI is continuing the engagements with the rice importers and other stakeholders to find ways to address their concerns, mitigate their costs of doing business, and most importantly, to ensure the stable and affordable supply of rice on the market.

Minister Modad has successfully managed many businesses over the years without any accusations, a testament to his good business deeds and innovative, sustainable business management strategies, which he intends to replicate at the Ministry of Commerce & Industry in the interests of the country and people.

The minister understands that many hidden hands are angered by the reforms he is bringing about and his new policy direction of empowering Liberians to take hold of their own economy. This has unsettled old-age profiteers and people in the opposition, prompting them to launch a massive smear campaign against him. Undeterred, Minister Modad assures the public that he is focused and firm on delivering the commerce, trade, and industrial development priorities of President Boakai’s agenda and will not be distracted by infantile propaganda coming from people like Sekou Sheriff and his ilk.