Fuel shortage hits hard in Mzuzu

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Shortage of diesel and petrol has hit Mzuzu and the Northern Region for the past few days, affecting transportation for businesses and consumers in the process.

However, authorities have allayed any fears of fuel scarcity, saying the country has sufficient stocks of fuel and that the problem in Mzuzu could be logistical in nature.

There were scenes of long queues at filling stations in the city and the northern region at the weekend, a characteristic of the last days of former President Bingu wa Mutharika’s rule.

The problem, which started about three weeks ago with the shortage of diesel and petrol alternating, worsened in the city at the weekend.

As usual, the black market took advantage of the situation, and hiked petrol price from K600/ litre to K900/litre.

Filling station operators could only say they were not getting supplies.

Reacting to the fuel scarcity, spokesperson for Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) Edward Mponda yesterday downplayed the issue, saying it might be due to some logistical problems and not fuel scarcity.

“The situation in terms of stock as a country, we’re okay. The issue might be logistical in terms of how transporters distributed the fuel to the north.

“Because as we speak now [ye s t e rday evening] , eve n Chilumba depot has fuel which is being taken to Mzuzu now. So, it might have been just one or two gaps in the system,” Mponda said.

Asked to explain on the said logistics, Mponda said since sale of fuel involves oil marketing companies and filling station owners, there could be some communication breakdown.

“It has to be between the oil marketing companies and the retail outlets as those filling stations are businesses which deal directly with such companies. But when we look at the country’s fuel stock, we’re fine,” he said.

On fears that the problem could be orchestrated by foreign exchange shortage and is yet to haunt the country even more, Mponda said he had nothing pertaining to those details on his table.

On today’s Fuel Pricing Committee’s meeting and possible fuel hike, Mponda said since changing the pricing mechanism for fuel in the country, that committee is mandated to meet monthly where they discuss prices.

“You recall that the pricing mechanism of fuel was revised and that is arrived at after the energy pricing committee meets, and is mandated to meet every month around the year.

“So, it’s not strange that they are meeting to see factors pertaining to prices of fuel. It will depend on the factors ruling at that particular period of meeting [on whether to hike the prices or not],” Mponda said.

Chief Executive Officer for National Oil Company of Malawi Robert Mdeza could not pick up his phone when called yesterday evening to comment on the matter.

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