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Bad weather blamed for Egypt's shortage of cooking gas

Government blames weather conditions and black market for the shortage of cooking gas cylinders

Ahram Online, Monday 4 Nov 2013
Cooking gas cylinders
File photo: Egyptians stand in front of a gas canister warehouse in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
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Long queues have been reported in recent days at depots across the country where cooking gas cylinders are sold, suggesting that Egypt is facing a new fuel crisis.
 
The Ministry of Internal Trade and Supply said the shortage is mainly due to delays in shipments of butane gas because of poor weather conditions. 
 
The ministry said also the crisis had been intensified by the trafficking of cylinders on the black market.
 
Although fuel issues were reported during the presidency of Hosni Mubarak, shortages of various kinds of fuel have become more common in the years since his overthrow in 2011.
 
While the supply ministry is charged with controlling the distribution of fuel, it is the role of the petroleum ministry to assure the import of all petroleum derivatives. 
 
Delays in imports have a major impact, as half of all cooking gas used in Egypt is imported. 
 
Import delays in previous months were blamed on the scarcity of foreign currencies, leaving the government unable to purchase the gas.  
 
"There is no liquidity problem right now; the government has purchased what it needs until the end of the year and the UAE is really supporting us," spokesperson for the supply ministry Mahmoud Diab told Ahram Online. 
 
Gulf countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have granted Egypt financial and in kind aid, in a show of support for the government that replaced Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.
 
In December, the Egyptian government more than doubled the price of subsidised butane cylinders, with the price of a subsidised 12.5 kg cylinder rising from LE2.75 to LE8.
 
Butane subsidies amount to LE20 billion ($3.3 billion) annually -- around 20 percent of Egypt’s total fuel subsidies. During previous shortages, the prices had reached LE75 per cylinder on the black market.
 
Egypt’s supply ministry launched a new programme in October to deliver butane cooking gas cylinders to households on request, for an additional fee of between LE2 to LE5. 
 
Commercial cylinders of larger capacity, which cost LE16, will have delivery charges of between LE10 to LE 15. 
 
Gas cylinders used to be delivered by official suppliers without extra delivery charges.
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