Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has said the acute shortage of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is a result of rampant black-marketing and hoarding.
“We have been told that some gas dealers and bottlers are hoarding old LPG cylinders to sell new cylinders,” said NOC Managing Director Chandika Prasad Bhatta. As refilling an old cylinder costs Rs 1,470, bottlers and dealers are forcing customers to buy new cylinder which is sold at as high as Rs 5,000 in the black market. “The trend has crippled the market despite increased supply,” he said.
According to the state-run oil monopoly, due to the ongoing maintenance of Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOC) oil refinery depot in Barauni, the corporation was forced to cut the LPG consignment by 889 tonnes in December last year. Despite the cuts, NOC said it imported 18,886 tonnes in the month, slightly down from 19,775 tonnes the previous year.
“The nominal cut in the imports would not have created such a severe crisis,” he said, adding the shortage was as a result of black-marketing and hoarding.
Bhatta said NOC has coordinated with the Department of Commerce and Supplies, Nepal Bureau of Standard and Metrology, District Administration Office and consumers’ rights activist to monitor the market.
NOC issues import quota of 22,377 tonnes of LPG to bottling companies every month. However, after the shortage, NOC has increased the quota to 25,000 tonnes for January. IOC has pledged providing 11,000 tonnes LPG from its depot in Haldiya, 10,000 tonnes from
Barauni, 3,000 tonnes from Mathura and 1,000 from Karnal-based depot for January, according to NOC. Besides LPG, NOC also plans to increase the imports of diesel and petrol to make the supply smooth. NOC aims at selling 25,000kl of petrol and 92,000kl of diesel in January. Petrol and diesel sales amounted to 22,941kl and 80,680kl, respectively, last month.
NOC said it has been importing an additional 300,000 litters of petroleum products mobilising 15 tankers every day. In addition, 600,000 litters is brought to the Kathmandu valley from Biratnagar daily.
The country has been witnessing a shortage of LPG and other petroleum products for the last few weeks. The shortage was visible immediately after NOC started to revise the prices of petroleum products every fortnightly based on the auto pricing mechanism.
NOC has revised the prices seven times since its adopted the mechanism on September 28, 2014. Over the period, it has reduced petrol price by Rs 21.50 per litre, diesel and kerosene by Rs 15 each, and aviation fuel by Rs 10.
Lawmakers inspect gas plants, dealers
Concern about the acute shortage of cooking gas in the country, lawmakers on Wednesday joined the government’s monitoring team to inspect liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) refilling plants.
Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) and gas bottlers have been trading blame for the shortage.
As per the decision of the Parliamentary Committee on the Consumers Welfare, lawmakers including, Lila Devi Shrestha, Subhas Chandra Thakuri, Rajya Laxmi Devi Shrestha, joined the monitoring team from the Department of Commerce and Supplies Management (DoCSM) to inspect the bottling plant of Nepal Gas and the main dealer of HP Gas.
Nepal Gas’s plant is located in Balaju, Kathmandu, while the HP Gas dealer is based at Samakhushi.
According to lawmaker Lila Devi Shrestha, HP Gas dealer was found not accepting deliveries from gas plant and selling the product more to businesses like restaurant and hotels. The dealer was found selling up to nine cylinders to a single restaurant, according to the Department of Commerce and Supplies Mana-gement.
Hari Narayan Belbase, director at the department, said the monitoring team instructed the dealer to sell gas evenly to all the consumers.
As for the Nepal Gas, it was found that NOC did not issue the import quota as per the bottler’s demand. Belbase said Nepal Gas was operating in half of its capacity due to inadequate supply from NOC.
“Although the company is supposed to receive 106 bullets per month, it received just 53 bullets in the last month,” said Belbase.
Meanwhile, a team led by Assistant CDO of Dhading Nanda Lal Sharma inspected refilling plants in the district. Eight of the 14 bottling plants were found hoarding 186 tonnes of LPG.
Meanwhile, hotel and restaurant operators in Naubise, Dhading, padlocked refilling plant of Om Gas on Wednesday. They accused the company of not selling products to the locals in order to supply them to the Kathmandu valley. A source said Om Gas supplies 300-1,100 cylinders to the valley every day.