Due to the scare of the deadly coronavirus volumes of fuel sold per month have plummeted by 10 percent, with fears that the situation would further deteriorate if cases soar.
Petroleum Importers Limited (PIL) general manager Martin Msimuko confirmed in an interview that by December 2019, they were selling an average of 18 million litres per month, but the figures have drastically reduced in the just ended month of March.
He was speaking in Karonga on the sidelines of a donation of an Oxygen Concentrator, 100 Oxygen masks and hand-washing materials to Karonga District Hospital, as part of efforts in dealing with Covid-19.
He said: “Business has really been affected in terms of the numbers, whereas we would be selling more, we are selling much less at the moment. You have seen that some people have stopped going to work, and across the borders. Those are the people who use a lot of fuel and with that, it has reduced the demand.
“By December 2019, we were selling at least 18 million litres a month, and we expected an increase in the volumes to increase by five percent. However, we have gone down by five percent, so in essence, if we add the anticipated five percent growth, we are down by 10 percent.”
Msimuko thanked the Mozambican and Tanzanian governments for still allowing travel of fuel through their roads into Malawi, but warned that any changes may be catastrophic.
“At the moment, our fuel tankers are still crossing the borders, we thank the Governments of Tanzania and Mozambique who are still allowing us to trade with them on fuel, us being a landlocked country, because if they decide to close the borders, it will be a disaster.”
Meanwhile, the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) has reduced pump prices from K930 to K780 per litre for petrol, and from K887 to 765 per litre for diesel.
The move followed President Peter Mutharika’s directive that Mera should reduce fuel prices as one way of reducing transport costs which had shot by almost 100 percent following measures to combat Covid-19.
“As we speak, I have discussed with Sadc [Southern Africa Development Community], Comesa [Common Market Development Community [Sadc] and other regional trade blocks as well as neighbouring countries to ensure smooth transportation and importation of essential goods and raw materials into Malawi.”
While PIL shareholders like Puma, Petroda and Total are battling for business survival, the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) warned that the impact of measures to contain Covid-19 will push up the cost of living for Malawians, especially in view of increased transport costs.
CfSC economic governance programme officer Bernard Mphepo, recently warned that prices for food and imported products were likely to soar following a 100 percent hike in bus fares.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health and Population, Jappie Mhango, speaking while touring Ilomba Border in Chitipa stressed the need for border areas to be tightened on security as one was of helping the fight against Covid 19. Malawi has already registered eight cases of Covid-19, with one death. It has also affected many African countries, including South Africa, which is on a 21-day national lockdown.