Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua said today the Government is closely monitoring the price of rice and expects to see rice prices fall in the coming months.

Dr Sikua acknowledges rice is a common staple food for most Solomon Islanders and the rising rice price has indeed affected all of them.

He says the original rise in rice prices, and the fact that they are staying high now, were a result of prices in world markets. Rice is grown and sold around the world. As such, the Solomon Islands Government does not control the global rice markets.

The Prime Minister says the prices of some goods, like fuel, had come down as a result of world markets, which benefit Solomon Islands people, but other goods such as rice continue to remain high.

"Freight costs make up relatively small component of the cost of a bag of rice. While the cost of fuel, in US dollar terms has fallen in recent months, this impact has been offset by the continued upward pressure on world rice prices. In the meantime, the Solomon Islands Dollar continues to be weak against US dollar," says Prime Minister Sikua.

Dr Sikua says he had been advised by officials that the United States Department of Agriculture figures show that while prices for some varieties of rice had fallen in recent months, the prices of the medium grain rice preferred by Solomon Islanders remain high.

He states that the Government has never at any time ignored the effect of the high price of rice on Solomon Islands people. It continues to work hard to limit the impact of higher prices by:

- Removal of Goods Tax and Import Duty: In April last year the Government removed the goods tax and import duty from rice as a measure to lessen price pressure on ordinary Solomon Islanders since it is a basic consumption item.

- Rice is now much less expensive than it would have been if the Government had not acted.

- Encouraging Competition for Rice Importers: The Government has approved two other rice importers, Harvest Pacific and QQQ to Solrice).

- Rice Farming: The Government is committed to helping rural communities to grow rice as part of a remedy to the rising price rice. This is to help farmers to produce local rice thus decreasing our reliance on imported food especially rice and offset the high price of imported rice.

- Encourage the production and bringing to market of traditional foods such as Cassava, Sweet Potato, Taro etc: Replacing rice with healthier traditional foods provides opportunities for local growers and sellers to make greater money and it also stops money from being sent offshore to fund imports.

The Prime Minister says the new competition in the Solomon Islands rice market has already seen prices beginning to fall.

Dr Sikua says he hopes the new competition would give the people of Solomon Islands a choice and make those selling rice to stay on their toes and respond positively to their customers' needs.

The Government would also continue to support rice farming in rural areas and look at ways of improving transport for the people and their goods.

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