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Fuel shortages strike Egypt again ahead of protests
Lines at petrol stations get longer as government minister blames temporary technical issues for disrupted supply amid reports of deeper crisis
Deya Abaza, Tuesday 25 Jun 2013
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Fuel
Drivers wait alongside their vehicles in long queues at a gas station during a fuel shortage in the country, in Alexandria June 24, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Long lines of fuel-hungry motorists have once more paralysed traffic in Egypt as yet another wave of fuel shortages hits the country. 

Though the lines have been a recurring feature of Egypt's post-revolutionary landscape, the latest shortages have caused particular public anxiety as they come ahead of planned anti-government protests on Sunday.

Nihad Shelbaya, public affairs officer at Exxon Mobil, said she heard Egypt's petroleum minister on the radio on Tuesday morning blaming the crisis on technical issues which delayed the distribution of fuel from Cairo's main depot in Mostorod over the past days.

"The delays probably sparked a buying panic as motorists grew worried that fuel would not be available in the coming days, so people are rushing to fill their tanks," Shelbaya said.

The country is bracing for massive protests on 30 June, as well as pre-emptive demonstrations by Islamist forces in support of President Morsi over the weekend.

"But whatever the reasons it is clear that the volumes of fuel received by stations in the past days are not the usual ones," Shelbaya added.

The quantities of fuel, particularly petrol, supplied to stations by the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation in the past days have been 20 to 30 percent below normal levels, said an anonymous source at state-run COOP (Petroleum Cooperative Society Company).

But on Saturday, officials at a press conference attended by Prime Minister Hisham Qandil had affirmed the contrary.

"Fuel quantities distributed to gas stations exceed consumption by 20 to 30 percent,” said Tarek El-Barkatawi, head of the Egyptian General Petroleum Company, who blamed the shortages on smuggling activities.

In April, then-Petroleum Minister Osama Kamal told Ahram Online that he estimated that smuggling and black markets accounted for not less than 20 percent of all fuel that the ministry provided to the market. 

Last week, government officials announced that the fuel-rationing smart cards to be introduced in July and August would be used primarily to combat smuggling.  

"The real reason behind the shortages is the lack of dollar liquidity, which has affected fuel imports," the COOP source said. 

The Egyptian pound, which has steadily been slipping against the dollar since the Central Bank of Egypt began auctioning foreign currency in late December, fell below LE7 to the US dollar on the official exchange market on 19 June.

Last week, Turkish news agency Anadolu cited Petroleum Minister Sherif Haddara saying that Egypt's strategic reserves of three vital fuel products would run out by the end of this month.

According to Haddara, Egypt has enough diesel fuel to last eight days, butane for ten days and petrol for 14 days.

Ministry officials declined to comment on the Anadolu report when contacted by Ahram Online.

According to the agency, the government has been providing the nation's petrol stations with 18,000 tonnes of octane per day and 37,000 tonnes of diesel fuel, while also providing the country's power stations with 23,000 tonnes of low-quality mazut fuel.



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Tammy
25-06-2013 09:13pm
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no fuel will not stop the protests....
do they not realize that loss of fuel is not going to stop the protests, the people will just protest where they are at & instead of at protests in the anticipated areas.. there will end up being protests every where..and the whole country will end up being out of morsi & the mb control..the fuel shortages which seem entirely orchestrated to stop the people is just going to make them even angrier & more resentful of the current regime..morsi & the mb are blowing even more holes in their already sinking ship faster than they realize..nothing is going to stop june 30 & they are fools if they think this will work...
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housekeeper
25-06-2013 06:10pm
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2+
even the smart ones...
...need fuel to move individually as long as they can't fly or the target is just a few steps away... so the strategy might work out pretty well finally...
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medo
25-06-2013 05:06pm
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95+
Do they think we are stupid??
technical issues??? In real English that means, Cut the fuel so people cannot reach the protests on Sunday and have something else to worry about to keep their minds occupied, Right?
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Sam Enslow
25-06-2013 06:08pm
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613+
Lucky
I believe you will find the buses transporting Morsy supporters to Cairo on Friday will be able to find gas. Just luck, I guess.

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