- Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 07:45
- Written by The News
Every year when the Christmas season is nearing, business people, mainly importers bring out goods that have overstayed and expired in their warehouses or on the shelf.
These goods are either auctioned or sold for cheap prices without considering whether they are healthy for human consumption or not.
In Liberia, of late, the streets of Monrovia and other market places have been flooded with large numbers of different kinds of expired goods, including bug-infested imported flour.
In recent time, this paper has been investigating the sudden increase in the large number of different brands of imported flour on the market and uncovered some interesting accounts.
According to consumers, some of the imported flour brands on the market have very poor qualities. They revealed that some of these imported flour have either expired, while others are infested with bugs and worms.
Complaints about poor quality of flour on the market have reached the Ministry of Commerce which says an investigation into the matter has been launched.
However, some consumers believe that the Commerce Ministry is doing little or nothing to address this situation. They alleged that certain individuals at the Ministry may have received sweetener from some Lebanese and Indian merchants to have these cheap products on the market without any scrutiny.
Interestingly, some Liberians have raised concern about the increase of different kinds of drugs and flour brand on the market. One pharmacist warned that if Liberians are not careful there would be serious health problem in the future because, according to him, the low quality of products on the market, including drugs is a problem.
“Flour and drugs are things we put in our system every day; therefore, the government of Liberian must critically exam the kinds of products and determine whether or not they are good for the public before taking a decision.
Martha Cooper, a house wife who operates a small bakery shop in central Monrovia, shared similar opinion regarding the market being flooded with substandard goods, including flour. She said her sale shrank in recent days after some of her customers complained about the bad taste of her bread.
Initially, she disputed her customers claim, but later found the allegations to be true. Mrs. Cooper said she later discovered that flours she bought from street vendors were infested with bugs and worms.
“Some of the flour that are on the market contain poor quality and they shouldn't be on the market after all…I wonder whether the Ministry of Commerce checks these commodities before ordering them on the market,” said Mrs. Cooper who expressed complete disappointment over the different kinds and mainly low quality of flour brands on the market.
Sources at the Ministry of Commerce hinted this paper that the ministry has acknowledged complaints about the poor quality of imported goods, including flour on the market.
According to sources, several Lebanese, Indians and Fula merchants are involved in the importation of flour. A good number of them are alleged to be importing very low quality flours in the country.
Bakery owners believe that the Commerce Ministry needs to regulate and monitor the flour industry so that the market wouldn't be flooded with cheap flour brand on the market.
They want Commerce to arrest, prosecute and shutdown individuals and businesses engaged in such unscrupulous practices being perpetrated at the expense of the Liberian people.
Lawrence Hilton thinks that the Commerce Ministry isn't doing much to arrest or shutdown business entities and individuals exploiting the Liberian people.
Hilton alleged that some flour importers are engaged in 'malicious activities' in the country. “I have been informed by some of those boys who work for Lebanese and Indian merchants that these individuals are engaged in sifting and remixing expired or infested flour with the good ones. Is the Commerce Ministry really doing its job?” he asked.
So far in Liberia, there's one flour mill company in the country which is reported to be owned and operated by Liberians. Interestingly, this company appears to enjoy minimum support, if any, from government in term of direct policy that supports Liberian businesses.
Investigation conducted by this paper revealed that there are about 25 businesses that import different kinds of flour brand in the country, most of them appear to be of cheap quality.
When contacted, the Director of Commodity said the ministry has received numerous complaints about cheap quality of flour on the market and the matter would be investigated. Is the Ministry waiting for Liberians to get infected by some serious outbreak before taking action? Where is the newly established Standards Board?
There are concerns that Liberians who are involved in manufacturing and other businesses should be given the support and latitude ahead of none Liberian citizens who are engaged in behavior that undermine the Liberian people.
John Cooper, a junior student at the University of Liberia believes that the government must give Liberian businesses preference ahead of foreigners in certain areas such as manufacturing and etc.
He said it is about time that Liberians who have the capacity or are involved in manufacturing or industrial activities be supported by government.