Liberian traditional rice kitchen used for elevated storage of unprocessed grain

This week the Acting Minister of Commerce of Liberia announced that there is a surplus of imported rice in the country. He also warned importers and traders that the Government of Liberia will be monitoring to ensure that this rice is not trans-shipped out of the country –that it remains for sale to Liberian consumers.
In April 2011, the Minister of Agriculture was concerned about possible food shortages due to global price hikes in petrol and cereals. The “hunger” and food insecurity will hit Liberia as early as September this year. So the surplus of imported rice, already in our warehouses, is good news for Liberian consumers. Ensuring that it won’t disappear from the markets is also…good news.
But I think about a fictitious Liberian farmer that we can call Flomo. He too has a surplus of rice to be harvested and has been storing it in his make-shift kitchen since January. His family has been eating the rice they grew but the 40 bags that he has stored is way more than they can eat before the next harvest. He could sell it but the price he would get for it is very low. Besides, where would he sell it? The nearest town is a $1000 LD ($1 US = $70 LD) pehn-pehn (motorbike taxi) ride away. He would be very lucky to get even $1000 for one bag of his rice which is all that he can carry on the back of the pehn-pehn. And then he would have to mill it so it would be in edible state. Another $200 per bag. Maybe he’ll keep his stock as seed rice for next year, but how would he plant that much rice by himself? And he really needs the cash too. Three of his children are in Kakata to go to school. They live with his sister and their fees are due soon. Last year, he was lucky that a buyer had come along and bought 20 bags from him; only half of what he’d had but it had been enough to pay his children’s fees. How he wishes a buyer would come along this time. Even for $700 a bag, he’d be willing to sell his rice. Even for $500.
So the good news is that the imported food will be sold in Liberia so Liberians won’t go hungry. Some farmers in Thailand or Vietnam are sending their children to school because Liberia has bought their rice instead of its own Liberian grown rice. For Flomo and other Liberian farmers, this good news is not so good.

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