HARPER, Maryland – In Maryland, a confluence of unfortunate events has skyrocketed the price of basic commodities, leading to gas being sold for L$2,000 (US$12.82) for a gallon.
Owners of motorcycles, cars, and other machines that consume petroleum products can often be seen running from one street to another in search of gasoline. However, not only is gasoline now expensive; it is also difficult to find in the entire county.
None of Liberia’s major gas vendors, including Aminata and Total, operate in Maryland.
Gasoline dealers in Maryland usually have three ways they can purchase their products – through the Ivorian border, from Monrovia via road, or shipping between Monrovia’s Freeport and the Port of Harper.
However, increasingly worsening conditions on the road now means that no vehicles have arrived with goods.
Additionally, severe flooding of the Cavalla River for the past month has made it difficult to transport goods from Ivory Coast for nearly a month. The flooding has not allowed ferries transporting vehicles to cross with goods. Traders in the county are also complaining that their goods are rotting across the river since they cannot get them to Liberia.
Gasoline dealers can also ship their products via sea, however, many dealers are now saying that the boat that usually transports goods to the county has raised its cost by 164 percent.
Oliver Brownell, a dealer at Airfield Junction in Harper, told The Bush Chicken that a drum of gasoline was previously transported for US$14, but that amount has now risen to US$37. He said the difference is more than half the profit he would have made selling a drum of gasoline.
Since August, Brownell said his partner in Monrovia had placed gasoline on a truck to be taken to Maryland, but it has not yet reached him because of the road condition. He estimates this has cost him a little over L$500,000 (US$3,185).
Brownell rejected claims by citizens that gasoline dealers are conspiring to create an artificial scarcity to further profit. He said his price was in line with what the market is demanding.
“I will not have gasoline to sell for L$220 and the price climbs to L$500 then I refuse to sell my gasoline at that price to get more money,” he said. “I cannot do that because I am looking for money. Why should I hide the gasoline and allow money to pass by me?”
Brownell called on the government to convince the management of the vessel transporting goods between the Freeport of Monrovia and the Port of Harper to reduce the cost of transportation to benefit the region.
He disclosed that he had started finding alternative routes of supplies – he managed to get eight drums of gasoline into the county via a canoe traveling from Buchanan. That cost him L$2,000 (US$12.82) per drum, far from what the vessel coming from Monrovia charges.
Meanwhile, the business officer for the Niko Ivanka boat that transports goods between Monrovia and Harper has denied claims that the company raised its prices. Charles Peterson took to several radio stations to deny the allegations, but he did not specify how much his boat was charging for transporting a drum of gasoline.
There are unverified rumors within the business community that the boat now transports more goods for Golden Veroleum and has reduced the number of basic commodities to accommodate for space.
Gasoline is not the only commodity affected by the increased barriers to transportation. Any product that requires materials from outside Maryland has now increased in cost. A 25kg bag of rice is sold for L$3,300 (US$21), compared to the L$2,700 (US$17) it sold for a month ago.
A sachet of water now costs L$10, up from L$5. A sack of 30 sachets of water is also now L$200 (US$1.27), up from L$75 (US$0.48).
Featured photo by George Momo