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No fuel queues in 2023—Nocma

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HOPEFUL—Reuben

The National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) has expressed hope that fuel queues will not resurface in the country.

During the second half of last year, fuel supply chain hurdles saw Malawians lining up for petroleum products such as diesel and petrol for days on end.

The problem, which was blamed on foreign exchange shortages, eased when the company secured a $50 million facility from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (Badea).

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Nocma acting Chief Executive Officer Micklas Reuben told The Daily Times, on the sidelines of a tree-planting activity which the company conducted in conjunction with Lilongwe City Council Monday, that they are committed to ensuring that the country does not experience fuel shortages this year.

Reuben pointed out that the country has not seen long fuel queues at the pumps from November 2022, a situation they want to persist.

“Our hope is that we are going to continue with the current situation, where we have no queues at the fuel pumps,” Reuben said.

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Late last year, Nocma former deputy chief executive officer Hellen Buluma told an inquiry by the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament that the $50 million facility from Badea helped the country address the fuel supply problem.

However, when asked about how much cover the country has at the moment, Reuben, who did not give a specific figure, said the situation was improving everyday.

Previously, Malawi used to benefit from a $306 million fuel facility from the Trade and Development Bank, which was being managed by the Reserve Bank of Malawi.

But according to an International Monetary Fund document, RBM intends to cease control of the facility and leave it in the hands of the private sector.

“The RBM began to wind down the quasi-fiscal operation of financing fuel imports in Q [quarter] 3 and intends to cease it by end-2022 and let Petroleum Importers Limited (PIL) take over fuel importation,” read IMF documents accompanying Malawi’s application for a Rapid Credit Facility programme.

Asked last week as to whether RBM had handed over the fuel importation facility to PIL, PIL General Manager Martin Msimuko said his firm had no official communication from industry regulator, the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera), on the matter.

“We have no official communication at the moment from our regulator, Mera, or RBM and business [is] continuing as per current arrangements [as] set out [at] 50:50,” Msimuko said.

In December, Nocma advertised for new fuel suppliers to provide Malawi with a total of 356,500 metric tonnes of gasoline for the year 2023.

When asked for his comment on the issue, Mera Chief Executive Officer Henry Kachaje asked for ample time.

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