Outcry as Uganda fuel crisis escalates

Wednesday January 19 2022
A filling station in Uganda

A filling station in Uganda. Fuel stations in border towns are staring at huge losses as motorists flock to neighbouring countries for cheaper fuel. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The fuel crisis has continued to bite for the second week running, with no signs ending.

Since last week, the fuel pump prices have increased from Ush4,500 ($1.27) to more than Ush6,000 ($1.69) per litre. 

Some fuel stations have also run out of fuel as a result of the shortage caused by delay of trucks at the border with Kenya.

Government at the weekend dropped the medical tests for Covid-19 truck drivers at the border and are now using temperature guns to find suspected positive cases as they struggle to clear supplies, especially fuel, to solve shortages in the country.

By Tuesday evening, fuel stations in Lira District were selling fuel at Ush6,500 ($1.83)at Stabex Fuel Station.

The rise in prices triggered high cost of living with commodity costs and transport fares going up.


High cost of fuel

Mr Patrick Ogwal, the chairman of Lira Produce Dealers Association (LPDA), said: “We used to pay Ush1.5 million ($423.07) to transport 10,000kgs of produce from Mbale to here, but because of the increase in fuel, we are now paying USh2 million ($564.09).”

The high cost of fuel has also affected the prices of other commodities in the district.

 Mr Bernard Anyeko Matsanga, the spokesman of Lira Urban Transporters Association (Luta), said the impact of the high costs of fuel has led to the increase of prices of other commodities in the district.

The retail price of a kilo of beans was going for between Ush1,600 ($0.45) and Ush1,700 ($0.48)up from USh1,300 ($0.37). Maize increased from Ush700 ($0.20) to Ush900 ($0.25 ) and simsim from Ush4,000 ($1.13) to Ush4,300 ($1.21).

“As I talk now most stations in Lira City have run out of fuel and the few which still have are increasing the price the way they want because of the high demand,” Mr Anyeko said.

He added: “If nothing is done to increase the fuel supplies, we as public transporters shall be forced to close our business by parking our vehicles.”

In Kiryandongo District, a litre of petrol at Don Petrol Station was being sold at Ush9,500 ($2.68) while at Total Petrol Station, it was going for Ush5,020 ($1.42 ).

“With such a crisis, the government is silent yet people are feeling the pinch as a result of the fuel scarcity,” Mr Moses Okello, a driver in Soroti City, said.

He appealed to the government to establish more fuel reservoirs for emergencies.

Various petrol stations countrywide have also disregarded a directive by the government warning fuel dealers against taking advantage of the temporary fuel shortage to fleece motorists.

The fuel crisis started in November last year but the government said it cannot regulate the fuel pump price because the market was liberalised. 

In Apac District, all the five fuel stations in Apac Town ran out of fuel.

 In Soroti, a litre of petrol was being sold at Ush4,810 ($1.36 ) and Ush4,910 ($1.38) at Shell and Total fuel stations respectively.

In Kabale District, the rising fuel prices have prompted boda boda cyclists to hike the fares from Ush1,000 ($0.28) to Ush2,000 ($0.56 ).

A litre of petrol in the district costs between Ush4,900 ($1.38) and Ush5,500 ($1.55).

Many fuel stations in Kabale Town have also stopped selling fuel to customers with jerry cans and plastic bottles following the crisis.

In Masaka City, some fuel stations like Shell Buddu and Total Kampala Road were selling a litre of petrol at between Ush4,960 ($1.40) and Sh5,300 ($1.49 ) respectively.

In Sembabule, most dealers had run out of fuel, and retailers were selling a litre of petrol at Ush9,000 while in Kalangala, a litre of petrol was going for Ush5,500 ($1.55).

A litre of petrol was being sold at Ush4,900 and Ush5,500 ($1.55) in Lyantonde while in Mpigi a litre of petrol was being sold at USh6,000 ($1.69) but pump attendants were selling it at USh10,000 ($2.82 ) a litre, citing scarcity.

In Mbarara, most stations did not have fuel at all and those that had were selling it expensively.

The manager of Petrol Uganda in Mbarara, Ms Rehema Namusoke, said: “We do not have fuel because consumption is high. We used to offload about 20,000 litres twice in a week but these litres are no longer enough because now on a daily we use 10,000 litres.”

Government warns

In Mbale, the Cabinet Minister for Energy, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, warned fuel dealers of dire consequences for hiking prices.

While inspecting the Namekara Mining Company Limited in Manafwa District at the weekend, Ms Nankabirwa said the crisis would soon be sorted.

“This particular hiking now has no bearing on the international price. This is management and administration issues at the border where we had URA (Uganda Revenue Authority) having a challenge of a scanner so they had to bring a mobile scanner from Elegu to Busia to reduce congestion that was there,” she said.

She added: “I am calling upon the dealers not to use this chance to cheat Ugandans. I know we are following a liberalised economy where market demands determine prices but it is not good to cheat. You can’t raise from Ush5,000 ($1.41) to Ush12,000 ($3.38),” she said.

The minister further warned that if the dealers do not stop increasing fuel prices, it would have a huge impact on all goods.

At most of the fuel stations in Mbale, petrol was going for between USh4,658 ($1.31) and Ush5,100 ($1.44) while diesel was being sold for between Ush3,800 ($1.07) and Ush4,100 ($1.16).