LPG shortage prolongs as supply from India continues to be erratic

Kathmandu, May 10

At a time when demand of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) has been shooting up in the country due to perennial shortage of the commodity, cooking fuel import slid by over eight per cent in April to 27,628 tonnes as compared to 30,135 tonnes in March.

Supply of cooking gas is still erratic in the local market due to reduced supply from Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), on which the country is entirely reliant for import of petroleum products.

Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has been repeatedly requesting IOC to increase the supply of cooking fuel.

Recently, during the meeting of the depot heads of both oil giants held in Kolkata on April 21 and 22, IOC had agreed to supply 33,000 tonnes cooking gas each month.

NOC, however, has been requesting for the supply to Nepal to be increased to around 37,000 tonnes each month till the supply situation in the country normalises.

Monthly demand of cooking fuel during normal times hovers at around 30,000 tonnes.

However, low supply from India during the border blockade has increased the demand as more empty cylinders have been piled up for refilling.

“As the country faced perennial shortage of the commodity for a prolonged period, consumers have started hoarding more cooking gas cylinders,” explained Mukunda Ghimire, spokesperson for NOC.

“There is no alternative to increasing the supply of cooking gas to ease the situation.”

There are around 6.7 million cooking gas cylinders that have been circulated in the domestic market.

IOC had also pledged to supply 13,000 tonnes from Barauni refinery, 12,000 tonnes from Haldia, 5,000 tonnes from Mathura and 3,000 tonnes from Karnal during depot chief meeting in Kolkata, as per Ghimire.

NOC has issued product delivery order to the bottling plants accordingly to import cooking gas from India.

NOC has projected that cooking gas supply this month (May) will further decline if IOC does not increase the supply in coming days. Even as IOC had promised to dispatch 3,000 tonnes from Karnal refinery, loading from the concerned refinery has not started yet. Based on the current loading condition from the IOC refineries, supply from Barauni is projected to hover around 10,000 tonnes, 6,048 tonnes from Haldia and 3,024 tonnes from Mathura.

“To normalise the supply of cooking gas in the country, IOC needs to supply at least 37,000 tonnes of cooking gas every month for the next three to four months,” said Ghimire.

Decline in import of cooking fuel has again started to make consumers anxious that the shortage will loom for longer. Demand of cooking gas will go up further during the festive season followed by the winter season.

The crisis of cooking gas that started from the festive season of last year due to tensions along the Nepal-India border is yet to ease, even though three months have passed since the border blockade was officially withdrawn by the agitating Madhes-based political parties.

IOC, however, has assured that it will make good on its earlier pledge to ramp up the supply.

It has recently written to NOC that supply of cooking fuel to Nepal dropped to some extent in April due to some technical problems in Haldia refinery, which has been sorted out now.