Liberia economic update: getting rice right for productivity and poverty alleviation
In the last two years, Liberia’s economic performance has improved. Inflation remained in single digits despite high global food and fuel prices and a relaxation in monetary and fiscal policies. Liberia’s poverty rate is projected to have declined slightly in the last two years as GDP growth rebounds and inflation moderates. On the external side, Liberia’s current account balance improved in 2022, thanks to the continued increase in mining export earnings. The increase in gold export in 2022 offset the increase in imports. Liberia’s medium-term economic outlook is positive, but uncertainties remain. Even as it has been trying to recover from a decade of weak economic and social performance, Liberia’s overall productivity and economic efficiency remain low, especially in vital sectors of the economy, including agriculture. Demographic trends, economic growth, and a strong preference for rice are the main drivers of demand. Yet, Liberia produces only one-third of its rice needs due to several constraints, including limited access to technology, inefficient farming practices, low public and private investments, and a fragmented value chain, among other factors that have kept productivity low. Amid low production, the increase in imported rice prices continues to fuel food insecurity, poverty, and vulnerabilities in Liberia. Domestic production would need to triple to satisfy local demand, but increasing production would require significant investments in the rice sector, as well as policy actions. This report provides some broad directions for policies.