Drivers queue for petrol as minister denies fuel shortage

Nevine Kamel, Marwa Hussein, Monday 16 Jan 2012

While government dismisses supply shortfalls, distributors insist they're receiving smaller-than-usual quantities of the precious commodity

Consumers queue in long lines for hours to get fuel. (Photo:May Shaheen)

Egypt’s ongoing gasoline shortage has reportedly spread to most governorates nationwide, although Cairo remains less affected than other cities.

For the last ten days, all types of octane – 80, 90, 92 and the more expensive 95 – have been in short supply, resulting in long queues outside petrol stations in many parts of the country. Some gas stations have resorted to setting a 20-litre limit on all gasoline purchases.

"I spent half the day trying to find petrol for my car,” said one frustrated east Cairo resident. “None of the four petrol stations near my home had any octane, including the state-run COOP [Petroleum Cooperative Society Company] stations.”

Egypt’s petroleum ministry, meanwhile, has denied the existence of any supply shortfalls among gasoline distributers, either public or private. In fact, according to Petroleum Minister Abdullah Ghorab, daily supplies of the commodity countrywide had actually increased recently by some 12.5 per cent.

"This crisis is imaginary," the minister asserted. "If there is a shortage of petrol, why can it still be found at state-run gas stations?”

Ghorab went on to say that his ministry had pumped some 300,000 extra tonnes of octane into the local market per day since the crisis began – an increase of 12.5 per cent on normal levels.

"The amounts currently being distributed are sufficient to meet some 15, 000 tonnes of daily consumption," the minister asserted. He accused petrol station owners of causing the shortage by hoarding gasoline following rumours that a hike in petrol prices was imminent – rumours, he stressed, that had no basis in fact.

Gasoline distributors, however, tell a different story, saying that gas supplies have waned noticeably in recent weeks – even at state-owned gas stations. One COOP source strenuously challenged the minister’s assertions, telling Ahram Online that the company had continued to receive “smaller-than-usual quantities” of octane.

According to petroleum ministry figures, Egypt’s annual gasoline production stood at 54 million tonnes in 2011, while annual consumption nationwide reached 53 million tons for the same period.

Hossam Arafat, head of the petroleum products division at the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Commerce, recently noted that Egypt imports roughly 10 per cent of its yearly gasoline needs. He went on to attribute recent “logistical problems” concerning local gasoline distribution to bad weather conditions.

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