KATHMANDU, April 5: Shortage of cooking gas continues to exist in the market despite the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) adopting a number of distribution mechanisms and importing adequate quantity of the liquefied petroleum (LP) gas from the Indian supplier.
It has almost been two weeks that the government has enforced the lockdown to minimize the spread of COVID-19. This has halted the commercial activities including most of the eateries and production businesses. Likewise, the government announcing 20% discount on the electricity tariff has also induced households to switch to using electric appliances than cooking gas. The fast selling induction stove, at the Food Management and Trading Company Limited, also provides the evidence of an increasing habit of the people in use of electrical appliances in their kitchen. Recently, the company has almost cleared its stock of the induction stoves that had remained unsold since the 2015 earthquake.
The NOC's records show that 53 bullets loaded with the cooking gas entered the country even on Saturday. In addition, the corporation has been selling an average of 110,000 cylinders of the cooking fuel, which is more than the 10% of the normal sales.
The NOC since last week has asked the gas bottlers to sell only half filled cylinder targeting to provide access to large number of consumers and to discourage hoarding of LP gas cylinders. In addition, the enterprise itself has been using mobile vans to distribute the cooking gas on the spot.
Despite these dimensions of demand and supply and distribution measures, the NOC has still been struggling to ensure adequate availability of the LP gas to its consumers. In the context of an increasing number of complaints, the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Lekh Raj Bhatta himself carried out market inspection on Saturday.
The NOC officials however claimed that there is an ease in the supply of cooking gas. “With a drop in demand while the supply is intact, there is now no shortage of cooking gas. However, with weak government monitoring at place, some cases of black marketing still prevails at the market,” said an official under condition of anonymity.
According to the records of the Department of Commerce, Supply and Consumer Protection, the department on Thursday took actions against two gas depots—Dhana Laxmi Cold Store in Balambu and Om Saraswati Store in Dallu, Kathmandu—for being involved in malpractices. Of these, the department slapped cash fine of Rs 200,000 on the spot against Om Saraswati Store on charges of selling LP gas at exorbitant price on pretext of ongoing shortage.