Fuel stocks aplenty, but firms issue dollar plea

Energy minister January Makamba  speaks with Tiper Tanzania Limited deputy CEO Mosha Martin (right) during his tour of fuel storage facilities in Dar es Salaam. PHOTO | MICHAEL MATEMANGA

What you need to know:

  • Depot owners tell Makamba that there is no shortage of petroleum products, but have asked that foreign exchange be made readily available.

Dar es Salaam. Amid fears of fuel shortages in some remote rural areas, owners of petroleum depots in Dar es Salaam have assured the government that they have enough stocks.

They have, however, asked that the availability of foreign exchange be improved.

That done, they said at the weekend, they will conduct their activities with much ease.

This came up when Energy minister January Makamba toured fuel depots in Dar es Salaam accompanied by petroleum and gas commissioner Michael Mjinja and Energy and Water Services Regulatory Authority (Ewura) director general James Andilile.

Depot owners assured the government that there was no shortage of petroleum products in Tanzania, adding that fuel was still being offloaded at the Dar es Salaam Port, ready for distribution to various filling stations across the country.

They told Mr Makamba and his team that they were currently working around the clock as they seek to rectify distribution challenges, which Ewura recently said were to blame for shortages reported in some remote areas.

Meru Petroleum general manager Charles Maingu said during the past ten days they had released 28 million litres of petroleum products from their depots and distributed the same locally and in neighbouring countries where the company also operates.

The company will also receive 27 million litres of diesel and 40 million litres of petrol next month.

“If there is any place that is short of petroleum products, let us know and we will deliver it there almost immediately. We have enough stocks,” said Mr Maingu.

Earlier, Mr Makamba asked Mr Maingu if they were facing any challenge in conducting business.

In response, Mr Maingu said they were not getting enough US dollars.

“May I request that we be given priority in the distribution of foreign exchange so we can pay for the petroleum products that we have ordered from outside the country. This is the only assistance we need from the government,” he said.

Other depot owners shared similar sentiments during Mr Makamba’s tour.

At the Puma Energy depot, the firm’s managing director, Ms Fatma Abdallah, said they have enough supplies of diesel and petrol, but noted that they need the government to help them by ensuring that they get enough US dollars.

“With enough forex, we will import enough fuel. In the meantime, we have enough supplies of the products and there is no reason to worry,” she said.

According to Ms Abdallah, they were also experiencing a rise in demand of petrol and diesel, saying in July alone so far, the company had sold over 36 million litres of the two products.

This, she said, was more than the 30 million litres of petrol and diesel that the company sold in the entire month of July, 2022.

She, however, assured consumers that a shortage of petroleum products in Tanzania was far-fetched.

“We expect to sell over 50 million litres of petroleum products this month. We sell to large scale wholesalers. We also sell on retail. Before the end of this month, we will have received 16 million litres of the product which will be offloaded soon from the port,” she said.

Puma is the leading seller of petroleum products in Tanzania, controlling about 14 percent of the market with over 23 players, according to official figures from Ewura.

Ms Abdallah said in August, the company will receive more than 60 million litres of petrol and diesel.

“I assure large-scale and small-scale marketers alike that we have enough volumes of fuel in the country and that we are working with the relevant government bodies to ensure that a shortage doesn’t occur,” she said.

Lake Oil managing director Abdulrahman Mohamed also raised the issue regarding the shortage of US dollars, saying although they were selling petroleum products in the domestic market in Tanzanian shillings, they bought fuel outside the country with dollars “Non-availability of the US dollar has been inconveniencing our business,” he said.

In response, Mr Makamba assured the marketers that the government was aware of the challenge and was working to resolve it.

“We have received the challenge and fortunately, the government is already aware of it and has been working on it. We will take this to our colleagues in the government because it touches on a number of other areas,” he said.

Mr Makamba added that the government was continuing to procure fuel to ensure that the people get it on time, saying warehouses had been opened to provide services to vehicles that transport the products.

Mr Bruno Tarimo, head of Ship Management Unit of the Petroleum Bulk Procurement Agency (PBPA), said all ships scheduled to bring in fuel this month had arrived and that the second ship was now finishing the unloading exercise.

"There is no threat of fuel shortage, we are going well even in the arrangement of the ships until they bring the load next month," said Mr Tarimo.

Dar es Salaam Port director Mrisho Mrisho said that the unloading activity was done every day, noting that there was already a ship unloading petrol and diesel while giving Tanzanians hope about the availability of the energy.

"In the future plans, we want to improve various areas of the port, including the oil receiving area. Today (Sunday) marks the third day that the ship has been unloading. By tomorrow it will be done to allow entry of another one," said Mr Mrisho.

For his part, Mr Makamba said the purpose of the visit was to find out the condition of the fuel in the warehouses of the traders, along with the challenges faced by the traders.

Dr Andilile said that they had found out that in six warehouses that there was an assurance of the energy and reason why Tanzanians should not be worried because the procedures for transporting it were underway.

"The owners of the warehouses have assured us that they will arrive on time so the people should not be afraid," he said.

In another step, Dr Andilile asked small businesses and those with small diesel and petrol stations to enter into a contract with large oil companies to easily obtain the product.

"It is important for the stations to enter into a contract with oil importers, and we have agreed that by July 31 everyone should have signed a contract at least with one big importer.

The goal is to ensure that when they order oil, they include them, instead of retailers doing their business just by chance," he noted.

The Secretary of the Tanzania Petrol Station Operators Association (Tapsoa), Mr Augustino Mmasi, said they have taken up the matter, noting that it was very important in the implementation of their duties.

Mr Mmasi said without doing so, they would find themselves running out of fuel or waiting for a long time.