Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporter
Government has assured the public that fuel supplies will soon normalise as queues significantly shortened or were totally absent at service stations across the country in recent days.
Most service stations around Bulawayo yesterday had fuel and relatively short queues compared to recent weeks.
Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo, in a telephone interview yesterday, said the root cause of the queues was a sudden doubling in demand that the Government has since adjusted to.
“We would like to assure the public that we expect our supplies to revert to normal at our service stations. You may have noticed that fuel queues have begun to disappear,” said the Minister.
“We were caught off guard by the demand that rose drastically from the normal consumption of about 2 million litres to about 4,6 million litres of diesel per day and 1 million to 3,1 million litres per day of petrol. It is on that basis that things appeared to be going bad . .and the farming season and the festive season that is upon us,” he said.
Minister Gumbo said Government was doing its best to ensure that scarce forex resources are also channelled towards fuel procurement.
“We need fuel for energy but other ministries also need forex. The ministry of health, mining and other ministries also need forex. However I am positive that things are going to stablilise. Our price is quite lower than in other countries in the region so they fill up in Zimbabwe while in transit. We made a proposal to the Reserve Bank to increase our weekly forex allocation from $20 million to $35 million per week,” he said, adding that the situation was improving as the busy festive season was coming to an end.
“The situation continues to improve and we are supplying fuel to the market. There’s adequate fuel in the country but the problem we have been having in the past weeks is the sharp rise in consumption. The demand rose drastically,” he said.
“We have enough fuel stocks in the country but sometimes we do not have forex to pay for the fuel. We strike deals with oil companies to deliver a lot of fuel in the country in advance.
“However we can only access that fuel after paying for it and our forex shortages sometimes hinder us from getting your preferred supply. We cannot say there is no fuel because there’s no forex. The fuel is there but the suppliers want forex up front. Our allocation is around $20 million per week for fuel so we receive it from the Reserve Bank. So if we are not allocated that forex, we may delay in accessing fuel,” said the Minister.
“The situation really improved across the country as from Friday. You may have observed at a lot of tankers do come in and decant, but we are struggling to meet the unexpected high demand. If on average say people only needed 20 litres per week, for a small car. Now everybody wants to fill up and have a full tank all the time, if we all do that, it creates problems,” he said.
Asked on fuel service stations that only sell fuel in forex, the minister said he was not in a position to comment on the matter as only the Reserve Bank and Ministry of Finance were able to comment and act on the matter.
“The RBZ controls money and they are best to comment on fuel being sold in US dollars. We are only responsible for the pricing of fuel. We can peg prices of fuel, but cannot say whether it’s sold in forex or bond,” said Minister Gumbo.