Buyers’ rush to stock in excess leads to shortage of cooking fuel
KATHMANDU, March 22: Nepal LP Gas Association, in an effort to discourage the hoarding of cooking gas, has asked the gas depots to maintain records of their customers who will refill gas cylinders from now onward.
With the prevailing threat of COVID-19 and India tightening cross-border movement, consumers are in a panic buying the essentials including liquefied petroleum gas, the main source of cooking fuel in the urban area. Due to the reason, the market is reeling under a shortage of cooking gas despite Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC)’s claim of maintaining regular supply in the domestic market.
As per NOC’s records, Nepal imported 32,000 tons of cooking gas in the past two weeks. On Saturday alone, more than 800 tons (45 bullets) of the cooking fuel was imported. However, households still have to wait in queue of at least a week to fetch a cylinder of gas.
Gokul Bhandari, president of the association, said they have made it mandatory for the gas depots to keep the records of their customers. “We have asked the sellers to record the details that include the customers’ names, address and contact numbers,” said Bhandari, adding that the depots failing to do so will not be provided new consignments for sale.
The ongoing short supply of cooking gas has been attributed to the consumers’ move to hoard excess quantity of the fuel than necessary. “Many households who had stockpiled a large number of gas cylinders since the Indian blockade some four years ago are trying to get all their vessels refilled with the cooking fuel, citing a possible shortage should the impact of COVID-19 protract,” said Bhandari.
During the Indian blockade on Nepal also, the government had tried to maintain similar records of the cooking gas purchasers, which however had failed in the absence of a strong tracking mechanism.
According to Bhandari, the association following a discussion with the government authorities has come up with the decision.
“The system will mainly check the multiple purchases by individual customers while it could also help check the black marketing of fuel in the prevailing unusual situation created by the threat of the coronavirus,” he said.
In the past few days, a number of instances of black marketeering of petroleum products surfaced in the market.
The Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection on Tuesday slapped a cash fine of Rs 200,000 each against Satyal and Kirana Pasal in Tika Bhairab, Lalitpur for its involvement in black marketing of cooking gas while Maitidevi Oil Store in Maitidevi, Kathmandu, also faced a similar action for hoarding petrol.
Last week, the association also asked the gas refilling companies not to sell new cylinders to tackle the present crisis. Bhandari affirmed that the step has eased the problem of short supply to some extent.