In Lofa County… Local Market Women risk losing properties In Collateral Due to lack of Customers

By Victoria Wesseh, FeJAL Mentorship Fellow——+231 77 814 7938

Lofa County-June 26, 2024, WTVNEWS: Several local market women in Lofa County risk losing their properties in collateral due to the lack of customers. The market women expressed concerns about the slow pace of buying as major factor affecting their businesses and currently impacting their livelihoods negatively.

The marketeers are attributing the hash business problems to bad road condition and the lack of employment opportunities for the locals; something the women said has caused economic hardship in the county.

According to the Women, the high exchange rate between the Liberian dollar (LRD) and the united states’ dollar is also another factor also businesses and causing more losses in the county.

According to Central Bank of Liberia’s Policy and Planning Department, as of June 22, 2024, the market buying rate is LD193 to USD1.00 while the selling rate is LD195 to USD 1.00 The CBL’s Policy and Planning Department noted that the rates are indicative rates based on results of daily surveys of foreign exchange market in Monrovia and selected cities of Liberia. “The rates are collected from the Central Bank, Commercial Banks, Parallel Market and the License Forex Bureau, the rates are not set by the Central Bank of Liberia”.

Cecelia Mawolo, a resident of Voinjama, has been selling used clothes in the local market for for over fifteen years. According to her, if the current situation in the county is not improved, market women risk losing their properties they used as collateral to get money from the bank and other susu clubs to get involve with business.

“Unlike few years ago when we were making more money because of sufficient customers, the current situation is seriously affecting us, we are seriously getting affected by the lack of customers these days to the extent that even if we make Three Thousand Liberian dollars, we will be celebrating, the Three Thousand Liberian dollars is by far less than what we even used to make, how will we pay the banks we credited from? We are worried” Madam Mawolo said.

She further emphasized “These days, we are not even thinking about making profit because at least you can expect profit when more people are buying but at the moment, we are selling without any expectation that we will make profit only to pay the bank, Imagine most of us buy our goods in United States dollars, sell in Liberian Dollars and had to straggle to buy U.S dollars at a very high rate at the detriment of our business because we must buy in US dollars, we are dying”.

Madam Mawolo added that due to the demand of the U.S. dollars and failure of big businesses to accept the Liberian dollars for purchase, they are getting the US dollars at a very high rate and sometimes even difficult to get. “Our situation here in Lofa is more complex because sometimes we have to go to Gbarnga or send our Liberian dollars to Monrovia to change just to have US dollars to buy new goods”.

Another businesswoman Kormassa Sackafor, selling organic Torkpogee Oil, complained about struggles she goes through to prepare the organic oil but yet get nothing from what prepared; thus threatening to leave the business after two decades if the situation is not improved. “It will be better for me to go to the village and begin to make my Cassava farm then to say am selling oil in the market because I who used to sell four to five Thousand Liberian dollars’ worth of oil per day cannot even sell up to One Thousand five Hundred oils anymore”.

She told the story about how she has managed to build two houses in Voinjoima, and One in Zorzor, while at the same time sending her children to school because of selling torkpogee oil. Ma Kormassa said, besides buying in the market daily, most people use to come from Monrovia and other places to buy oil by gallon, but that is no longer happening.

“What I have even started doing with the advice of some of my friends is to take my oil by gallon to Monrovia for sale but even as that, you will not find an immediate buyer because the Go-ba Chop market Women will take it and pay your money in days”. She said it is more challenging to go to Monrovia due to the excessive transportation, you may lose at some point because you will spend according to the days you in Monrovia.

For her part, Ma Mary Jallah, also a resident of Voinjama, said the prices of basic commodities are high and as the result everything is expensive making it difficult for people to buy. Ma Jallah however noted that why there are many factors affecting the market, the artificial scarcity created by some of the marketers is also helping to undermine their businesses.“Imagine, some of them increasing the prices of pepper, bitterboy, Orka and other produces grown on their farms as if they buying it from outside the Country. She said even if imported rice is scarce on the local market, there is absolutely no reason why the price of Country rice should be increased.

The Market Women are appealing to the Pres. Joseph Boakai United party led government to do all it can to ensure the US rate is dropped at the same time wok on the farm roads including major roads which they believe will help to address the current hash business situation in Lofa County.

For her part, the head of the Liberia Marketing Association in Lofa County Madam Finda Boakai described the Women as critical part of the Liberian economy.

Madam Boakai however said, the slow pace of buying as well as the lack of Customers is not unique to Lofa County alone, but a problem affecting almost every region of the country.

She recommended that the Women get involve in other activities to support their businesses. Madam Boakai is however calling on her fellow market women not to depend on the one business alone but rather get involved in something that will help strengthen and build up their business. She believes the Women can also do other businesses such as opening restaurants and investing in agriculture productivity as well as establishing farmers Cooperatives and fishponds that will help them open large farms, that will help them get money to cater to their families.

Recognized as Liberia’s breadbasket” Lofa”s farms yield abundant crops forming the foundation of delectable dishes but poor planning, not controlling cash flow, poor infrastructure and road network and lack of sufficient government support could be responsible.

This content was produced by the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FeJAL) Mentorship Fellow, through the support of Internews USAID Year III Media Activity Reporting Program.

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