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Malawi Announces New Rules to Guarantee Fuel Supplies

FILE - Motorists pumps fuel into his vehicle in the commercial capital Blantyre in this picture taken March 26, 2012.

BLANTYRE — Malawi has announced measures to end recurring fuel shortages which started in 2021. Consumers are facing long and winding queues in pump stations forcing many motorists to sleep in their vehicles while waiting to buy fuel.

However, government authorities say measures are underway to restock depleted national fuel reserves.

Malawi government authorities told a televised press conference this week that the problem is largely due to a shortage of foreign exchange to purchase enough imported fuel.

Minister of Information Moses Kunkuyu said “The major challenge has been mainly that of forex where Malawi is importing less than we are consuming. As of now ,what we are importing has been hovering around 41 million liters per month which is against the projected demand of 51 to 60 million liters per month.”

Kunkuyu also said another problem is that pump stations quickly run out of fuel once they are refilled because many people buy in larger quantities in anticipation of another scarcity.

“Someone,” he said, “who would go on a normal day to buy 5,000 Kwacha ($4) worth of fuel, today is looking for some 30,000 ($27) to 40, 000 Kwacha ($37) to fill the tank. So ordinarily, we would need 1.7 million liters on a daily basis. But now, people are buying because they are anticipating that pump stations may run dry again, you would see that the daily demand has gone to about two million liters.”

Malawi started facing fuel shortages in 2021, though today the situation has escalated, pushing operators of public transportation vehicles and traders to almost double their prices.

However, Kunkuyu said the government has secured a $50 million loan from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa for restocking fuel reserves which should ease recurring supply challenges.

The government is also discussing with some suppliers contracts to supply fuel for which they would be paid in Malawi’s local currency.

The government has also announced that it would now consider importing fuel by train via the railway line bringing goods from the port city of Nacala, Mozambique, into central Malawi.

Clement Kanyama, the chief executive officer for the National oil Company of Malawi, said the loan will help to refill the country’s depleted fuel reserves by the end of September.

“For a start,” he said, “our target is to bring in as much as 20 percent of fuel from Nacala. (That’s)because, according to our numbers, Nacala is the shortest route, and the distance from Nacala to Blantyre is actually very short. When we bring fuel by train, we are able to bring significant quantities at once.”

In meantime, the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority has banned the use of buying fuel in jerry-cans except those with licenses to allow such purchases.

The aim is to prevent people who buy fuel in the containers from reselling it on the black market where prices have more than doubled prices at the pump.