Egypt Govt Struggles with Ongoing Diesel fuel Shortage

Source: Ahram Online 2/12/2013, Location: Africa

In queues often hundreds of metres long, trucks, tractors and microbuses can be seen outside gas stations across Egypt waiting to fill up on diesel fuel. "I've been waiting here for six hours," lamented Mahmoud, a microbus driver waiting on line in 6 October City, west of Cairo.

Another driver complains: "The last time it took me a day to find diesel so I could finally start working." And in yet another microbus, 14 female passengers wait patiently with the driver – for a full hour – while he refuels before they return to their homes.

Apart from time lost, drivers complain about the emergence of a black market in which a litre of diesel is sold at double the normal price. Many say they are buying 20-litre jerry cans of the commodity for between LE40 and LE50, as compared to the usual LE20 (roughly $3).

In light of these tensions, fights and arguments outside gas stations have become commonplace. "My truck's windshield was broken yesterday in a fight with sticks outside a petrol station," said one driver.

Near a small gas station on downtown Cairo's Ramses Street, a police vehicle has been stationed to break up altercations between microbus drivers who represent the station's main customers.

The government, meanwhile, has been slow to provide explanations for the acute diesel shortfall.

"We have not cut supplies to distributors," said Sherif Hadara, head of the state-run Egyptian General Petroleum Company (EGPC). "General worries and concerns are prompting consumers to line up at gas stations."

Hadara dismissed speculation that a lack of foreign currency was at the root of the crisis.

In the Warraq district on the outskirts of Cairo, all five stations visited by Ahram Online were suffering diesel shortages.

"I'm receiving less than half the amount I usually receive," said Mustafa El-Tahan, owner of a local Shell petrol station. He says he is currently receiving 12,000 to 30,000 litres of diesel per day, as opposed to the 45,000 to 60,000 he used to receive.

Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Osama Kamal on Tuesday attributed the crisis to smuggling activities, stressing there was "no shortage" of diesel fuel.

"The ministry has drawn up a short-term plan to deal with the crisis by reorganising distribution," Kamal was quoted as saying by Reuters. "Gas stations found to be acquiring diesel illegally will be excluded [from the official distribution scheme] and their allotments will go to other stations."

According to an official at a major oil company, who is responsible for supplying diesel to the Giza governorate, his company is still receiving normal amounts of the fuel. He attributed the queues seen outside his company's petrol stations to a "lack of fuel in other areas."




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