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Fuel queues resurface in Lilongwe, Blantyre

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Werani Chilenga

By Wezzie Gausi:

Just when people were beginning to think the worst is over, long fuel queues and dry pumps have suddenly resurfaced in Malawi’s administrative capital, Lilongwe.

This comes barely a week after the situation had improved, The Daily Times has established.

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The long queues have also spilled over to Blantyre, which has seen motorists hopping from one filling station to the next in search of the highly-sought-after commodity. Previously, it was only those using diesel-powered vehicles and generators that were affected in Blantyre but now even those using petrol-propelled vehicles are scrambling for the commodity whenever it is made available.

The problem of fuel scarcity, which has largely been attributed to forex shortage, comes despite assurances from both Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) and National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) that things would improve.

Monday, Mera spokesperson Fitina Khonje asked for more time before she could respond to our questionnaire.

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Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change Chairperson, Werani Chilenga, said players in the energy sector told the committee that fuel shortages would persist.

“I think this is the new normal as the country has no forex for Nocma and Mera to purchase fuel. We were told that fuel will be coming in bits until the issues of forex are dealt with,” Chilenga said.

Petroleum Importers Limited General Manager, Martin Msimuko, recently told a joint Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Transport and Natural Resources that the country needed at least $80 million (about K82.48 billion) to normalise fuel supplies.

Speaking in Lilongwe last month during the Malawi Investment Summit, President Lazarus Chakwera told Malawians that government was putting in place necessary measures to ensure that fuel is available in the country and that an acute shortage of forex was behind the dry pumps.

“I know that the current shortage of fuel is adversely affecting manufacturing, businesses, work and domestic life, and I want to assure you that we are seized of this matter to ensure that there is product in the service stations in the short term, while we work on the long term forex issues that are at the root of this problem.

“We have therefore already secured $28 million from local banks for this purpose, and we are in pursuit of another $50 million facility for the same, on top of instructions the Reserve Bank has received to prioritise fuel procurement in the allocation of any forex we secure,” he said.

Nocma Deputy Chief Executive Officer Hellen Buluma recently told The Daily Times that 300 trucks of fuel products were coming into the country from Dar es Salaam to the country’s strategic fuel reserves managed by Nocma and that over 200 more trucks would commence loading soon in Beira and Nacala ports.

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