What started as isolated cases of petrol stock-outs in some parts of the country in the past fortnight has turned into a crisis that has left motorists desperately queuing at service stations since Monday.
Spot-checks in the country’s four cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba as well as other district centres such as Mangochi, Mulanje, Kasungu and Mzimba revealed that some service stations had, by yesterday, gone three days without fuel.
Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera), in a written response, yesterday confirmed the fuel shortages in some parts of the country and attributed the same to shortage of foreign exchange in the country.
Mera consumer affairs and public relations manager Fitina Khonje said: “The continued shortage of foreign currency is affecting importation of adequate volumes of petroleum products into the country.
“However, licensed importers and all stakeholders in the fuel supply chain remain committed to minimising stock-outs and ensuring continuity of supply.”
She further said importers of petroleum products are continuously engaging with key stakeholders to find solutions and sustain fuel supplies.
In Zomba and Mulanje, almost all service stations had no fuel as at 2pm yesterday.
On the other hand, in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu, most fuelling stations only had diesel, forcing motorists to queue at the few stations with petrol stocks.
Mera yesterday also issued a fuel delivery schedule which had disappeared in the past two months.
This is the sixth time since last August that Malawians have faced fuel shortages that have forced motorists to queue in anticipation of delivery at particular stations. The other more pronounced shortages were recorded in October and December last year as well as March and May this year.
The resurfacing of fuel queues comes barely two months after Malawi Government said it had devised several measures to ensure security of fuel supply, including negotiating to pay suppliers in local currency.
Speaking during a public engagement on fuel supply organised by Mera on May 14 2023 in Blantyre, Minister of Information and Digitisation Moses Kunkuyu, who was accompanied by Minister of Energy Ibrahim Matola, said forex shortages have led to challenges in paying suppliers, leading to disruptions in fuel supply chain.
On why the country continues facing fuel shortages two months after indicating that there were new measures, including paying suppliers in the local currency, Kunkuyu yesterday said government directed National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) to start engaging fuel suppliers willing to be paid in kwacha.
And in a written response, Nocma director of operations Micklas Reuben yesterday attributed the current fuel shortage to the delays by ships carrying Nocma’s fuel imports at the port of Beira in Mozambique which forced the company to source the product using Dar es Salaam Port in Tanzania to Lilongwe.
But he expressed optimism that fuel supply will normalise by Friday this week.
Said Reuben: “Measures addressing the situation include the following: Letters of credit which have been outstanding have been confirmed as reported by our banks this [yesterday] morning, engagements with local banks have secured $15 million and 3.2 million euro.”
During spot-checks yesterday, one of the motorists on the long queues, Msosa Kachere, expressed frustrations with the resurfacing of fuel scarcity.
In the past two years Malawi has been reeling under an acute foreign exchange shortage due to supply and demand imbalances on the domestic foreign exchange market largely evidenced by low forex supply, declining official foreign exchange reserves and widening spread of rates on the market.
Malawi requires $3 billion per year to meet import requirements, but only produces $1 billion, according to RBM data.