<strong>HARARE - </strong>The shortage of fuel in Harare and other parts of the country has been caused by high demand of the commodity, which is putting pressure on prices, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) has said.</p>
Zera chief executive officer (CEO), Gloria Magombo, told the Daily News yesterday that suppliers were finding it difficult to meet demand for fuel and this was contributing to panic buying and artificial shortages that are emerging throughout the country.
“The demand of fuel has increased significantly, also affecting supply demand balance since the coming in of the new dispensation with demand of petrol increasing by over 20 percent and that of diesel by over eight percent in Q1 (the first quarter of 2018) as compared to (the same period in) 2017 based on the consumption statistics captured by Zera,” said Magombo.
She said Zera was working around the clock to address the obtaining crisis.
“The status of supply needs to be updated later in the day as we expect it to improve as necessary steps are being taken to address the supply demand balance,” Magombo said.
This follows the emergence of long-winding queues at pump stations in and around the capital which had fuel while others have completely run dry since Monday.
Only a few had only either diesel or petrol and a few had both.
Magombo also disclosed that the increasing prices of fuel at pump stations was a result of a global rise in crude oil prices and the fact that at present, the country had suspended ethanol blending, which helps suppress costs.
Global oil prices soared over the past week owing to disturbances in the Middle East, which hampered production.
The United States, France and Britain — members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation — launched 105 missiles on Syria on Saturday, targeting what they called were Syria’s chemical weapons facilities.
Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s administration is being accused of using chemical weapons to eliminate opponents in a deadly civil war which has been ravaging the key oil producing nation for the past six years.
In addition, violent clashes between Israel and Palestine have also been credited with the slump in oil production and a corresponding rise in prices.
“As you are aware, the price of crude has been increasing on the international market, which has resulted in the local prices also increasing. This is being monitored closely. Zimbabwe has no control of the international prices,” said the Zera CEO.
“To make matters worse, the country is currently not blending at the moment and we expect ethanol production to start by end of May 2018. Blending helps reduce the petrol imports and also has an impact on reducing prices by up to $0,6 per litre depending on the blending levels.”
Government mandated the blending of unleaded petrol with ethanol in October 2013, through Statutory Instrument 17.
At first, the threshold was set at five percent (locally produced ethanol), before the ratio was creased to 10 percent in November 2013.
Green Fuel is presently the only company that has the licence to produce ethanol for blending purposes in Zimbabwe.
The development was received with mixed views with critics warning of its threats to environmental sustainability and food security.
Others cited supply chain bottlenecks as a fuel distributors were reluctant to stock and sell blended fuel.
Government and proponents of biofuel are, however, adamant that it heralds a solution to energy security.
Yesterday, Magombo urged motorists to desist from panic buying as it will result in artificial shortages and may result in fire accidents if motorists hoard fuel.
“Zera urges motorists to use fuel efficient vehicles and small engine vehicles which will assist reduce demand,” she said.
“We also encourage, carpooling and reduction of unnecessary trips until the situation improves. The demand and supply situation is being attended to and we hope that the situation will be normalised soon,” Magombo added.