Liberia remains a highly food insecure country, with a “serious” state of hunger rating according to the 2012 Global Hunger Index. While the country is blessed with a climate favorable to agriculture, extensive biodiversity, and vast natural resources, decades of war and low economic and social investments have ravaged Liberia’s productive assets. Relative political stability has returned to the country since the end of the civil war in 2003, but Liberia still struggles to overcome the social, economic, and human costs of its history (WFP 2012).
Liberia ranks 182 out of 187 on the 2011 UNDP Human Development Index. In 2011, 83.7 percent of the population lived on less than US$1.25 per day (UNDP 2012). Liberia has progressed since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, however, showing strong recovery driven largely by foreign direct investment and growth in the construction and service sectors. Inflation has dropped from 8.5 percent in 2011 to 6.2 percent in 2012 (World Bank 2012). Despite this improvement, unemployment remains high and the country remains heavily dependent on food and fuel imports, thanks to a lack of modern infrastructure. Such import-dependence makes Liberia extremely vulnerable to commodity price shocks on the international market.
An estimated two-thirds of the country's cereal consumption (around 530,000 tons) is covered by imports. Domestic prices of imported rice, the country’s main staple, have continued to rise since the beginning of 2011. This rise in rice prices is due to a combination of factors, including increased transportation costs, poor road conditions, and increased demand for food. In response to the continued rise in rice prices, the government has suspended its import tariff on rice to help maintain lower prices on the domestic market (FAO GIEWS 2012).
In addition, a recent flood of refugees from Côte d’Ivoire has had a serious negative impact on Liberian communities in the four counties bordering Côte d’Ivoire. The influx of refugees has put further pressure on local resources and increased the region's food insecurity. In these areas, the proportion of households with inadequate food consumption scores increased from 32 percent in 2010 to 75 percent in 2011, according to an inter-agency Emergency Food Security and Market Assessment.