-As ‘Pro Poor Rice’ Scarce On The Market
The importation of about 80,000 bags of rice by a well-respected businessman, Mr. George Abi Jaoudi to help reduce the level of hardship in Liberia has been described by some Liberians as a clever game of ‘deception’ apparently intended to gain favor from the Liberian Government.
Earlier, presidential sources told this paper that the discussion was to bring sufficient rice at this time to supply many people. But that was not the case.
Prior to the arrival of the rice into the country, the Liberian leader publicly announced that he was bringing the nutritional rice’ to ease the challenges Liberians face in acquiring the country’s staple food.
“We think the intention of George to bring the rice was not bad. But you cannot come with less than hundred thousand bags and say that it will help the people,” Andrew S. Kollie, a petty businessman told this paper.
But since the rice was brought into the country, Liberians are now murmuring over the status of the much publicized ‘pro-poor rice’ brought into the country reportedly by the businessman through the Liberian Government headed by President George Manneh Weah.
A Liberian Company named, TRH Trading said to be owned and operated by George Abi Jaoudi in partnership with the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Commerce brought in the initial consignment of the Pro-Poor rice that is sold wholesale to Liberian businesses through the Ministry of Commerce. The local businesses will in turn do the retail sale.
The Liberian leader on December 5, 2018 officially launched the distribution of over ‘200 metric tons of rice 80,000 bags’ at the Freeport of Liberia, but since then, the rice is said to be scarce on the market.
The importation of the rice according to several Liberians spoken to is good, but is seen as a way to cement ties with the president.
“The pro poor rice is good. But it is not much. If you really want to help the country, bring in more tons instead of what was brought in,” Titus R. Freeman who referred to himself as a student of business.
However, others have begun to insinuate that the businessman may have had good intention, but ended up in a low ‘belt’.
“For me, I will say that he was smartly deceived that the rice was going to help people around this time. George is a smart businessman who knows how to play his game. But this other game beats him down,” Titus continued.
According to some sources at the Ministry of Commerce, the remaining bags of rice are yet to arrive in the country.
“I am very happy that we can begin to distribute this low-cost rice at time our people need it most in wake of the festive season. Pro-poor rice, as we call it, is a dream come. While working to meet the needs of our people,” President Weah said.
George Abi Jaoudi is said to be an associate of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Former president Sirleaf first vacation job upon graduation from high school was with the Abi Jaoudi, she told a gathering of journalists during one of her meetings with the media.
Abi Jaoudi was reportedly linked to the alleged missing L$16billion Liberian dollar.
Due to the low price of the rice on the Liberian market, it was said to have been smuggled into neighboring Sierra Leone. Over the weekend, three trucks carrying consignments into Sierra Leone were arrested by Liberian security officers. A top commander at the border told this paper late Thursday that one of the truck drivers escaped. It is not known whether the trucks were still at the border.
When officials at the Ministry of Commerce were contacted for comment, an official who declined to be name said, “we do know that the rice was brought into the country to help the poor people. I will not say that the businessman deceived the president. That is no deception rather, an atmosphere of good business spirit.
When a senior business partner(Bila) of Abi Jaoudi was called, his phone was off.