The ban on the export of non-basmati rice from India would not have a significant impact on Liberia’s rice supply, the India Embassy in Liberia has clarified.
The embassy’s statement comes as Simeon Freeman, a presidential candidate for the October 10 polls, warned Liberians of “a serious looming rice crisis” as a result of the ban.
Freeman’s claim has gone unchallenged since August 7 and comes as India, a few weeks ago, placed a ban on the export of non-basmati rice due to concerns about rising domestic food prices and the need to ensure sufficient supplies for its own citizens.
However, the Embassy, in a rebuttal, has dismissed such claims that the ban would not disrupt rice supplies in Liberia, even though the country remains heavily import dependent for its staple food.
“Clarification on ban on export of Indian rice. There is no change in export policy of non basmati rice (parboiled rice) and basmati rice, which forms the bulk of rice exports,” the Embassy said in a release seen by Daily Observer. “Bulk of the rice imported by Liberia from India is parboiled rice.”
“In order to ensure adequate availability of non basmati white rice in the Indian market and to allay the rise in prices in the domestic market, Government of India has amended the export policy of above variety from ‘Free with export duty of 20%’ to ‘prohibited’ with immediate effect,” the Embassy added.
The action by India, which is the world’s largest rice producer, has stoked fear of global food crisis. And Liberia, like many other African countries, heavily relies on rice imports to meet its domestic demand.
With nearly the entire country’s population depending on rice as their primary food source, any disruption to the supply chain could have grave consequences for Liberia’s food security.
Currently, Liberia is 5th largest consumer of rice in West Africa — more than Nigeria, Ghana, and the 7th highest Sub-Saharan African, according to the World Bank in a report titled : “Getting Rice Right for Productivity and Poverty Alleviation.”
The Bank added over the past 15 years, rice consumption in Liberia has increased at an annual rate of 4.6 percent, reaching 560,000 metric tons in 2021 and its growing demand “amid inadequate production capacity” is fueling food insecurity and poverty — disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable.
Rice imports, the Bank noted, represent two-thirds of the country’s total consumption, compared to only one-third in 1979 — the year of the rice riots in Monrovia.
The Bank added that over the same period, the self-sufficiency rate dropped from a peak of 47.9 percent in 2011 to 32.2 percent in 2021, while the country’s import bill for rice has also increased fivefold between 2011 and 2021, growing at 15.6 percent yearly.
“The rapid growth in imported rice supply reflects the high demand for the commodity in the wake of limited domestic supply — but also households’ preferences for the improved quality of imported rice,” the Bank said in the report, which was released a month ago.
“By 2021, rice imports would make up more than one-half (52 percent) of the value of imported food and about 14 percent of total imports, making it one of Liberia’s major commodity imports.”