Lincoln Towindo, Harare Bureau
ZIMBABWE has adequate fuel stocks but panic buying and hoarding are causing stock-outs at filling stations, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Jorum Gumbo told our Harare Bureau yesterday that the current shortages are “artificial” and are creating a “false crisis”.
The Masasa and Mabvuku depots in Harare have enough fuel, while pumping of the commodity from Beira, Mozambique through the Feruka Pipeline was ongoing, he said.
Although facing competing demands for foreign currency as industrial production recovers, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, he added, was spending $20 million weekly to import fuel sufficient to meet the country’s daily requirements of 2,5 million litres of diesel and 1,5 million litres of petrol.
“The sporadic fuel stock-out at service stations are being caused by a number of factors that include foreign currency shortages and panic buying by motorists, resulting from false social media messages,” said Dr Gumbo.
“Once oil companies get the foreign currency from the Reserve Bank, they have to plan for the logistics of getting the fuel to their service stations and that at times causes delays at service stations far from Harare. Also, international oil prices are rising and that means that the foreign currency the RBZ allocates to fuel companies that is around $20 million — amounting to 80 million litres a month — is no longer adequate. In addition, the increase in demand also indicates increased production by industry, a response to the Zimbabwe is Open for Business slogan. As the economy continues to improve, there is going to be increased demand for foreign currency. What is happening also is panic buying is creating artificial shortages as motorists are buying more than they require.”
Dr Gumbo urged motorists not to purchase more fuel than they required.
“At our Masasa and Mabvuku depots there is enough fuel and pumping is ongoing from Beira. We need 2,5 million litres of diesel a day and 1,5 million litres of petrol; we are able to meet those figures. The panic buying should not be expected as there is no need for that. There are also fears that the new 2c tax (on electronic transfers) could be contributing as people think that the price of fuel will shoot through the roof and people are hoarding,” said Dr Gumbo.
Dr Gumbo said marginal price adjustments at service stations were in tandem with rising international crude oil prices.
Last Wednesday, international oil prices rose to a four-year high of $86,74 per barrel on fears US sanctions on Iran, which take effect next month, will cause a one million-barrel decline in global production. Iran is the third-largest producer in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The RBZ will spend more than $650 million importing fuel this year. Government is also developing a long-term model that will ensure multiple fuel importers source their own foreign currency and ease the burden on allocations from the central bank.
Last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said Government would soon invite investors to create a “regional fuel dry port” at the Mabvuku Loading Gantry and Msasa Depot storage facilities.
“The vision for this inland fuel port will turn it into a vital regional fuel port that will serve neighbouring countries. An additional pipeline could also be built from Beira to the fuel storage facility in order to increase capacity.”