Diesel shortage, POL prices cut may hamper wheat harvesting

May 11, 2020

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LAHORE: Tractor-trolleys line up at a filling station near Bhakkar for getting their tanks filled with diesel. Demand for fuel increases during wheat harvest. — Dawn
LAHORE: Tractor-trolleys line up at a filling station near Bhakkar for getting their tanks filled with diesel. Demand for fuel increases during wheat harvest. — Dawn

LAHORE: There seems to be no let-up in the miseries of the farmers as the authorities remain apathetic to the diesel shortage being faced by them in the middle of the wheat harvesting season.

Reports of unavailability of diesel in the market had started doing rounds a couple of days after downward revision of the rates of petroleum products on April 30 in line with the sharp decline in their prices in the world market.

Almost all oil marketing companies stopped placing orders with the international suppliers as soon as the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) hinted at proposing a cut in oil prices.

Already suffering because of shortage of labour due to Covid-19 lockdown, wheat growers are facing another unexpected crisis amid the harvesting season in the form of unavailability of diesel to run their tractors and threshing machines. This may lead to delay in harvesting.

Farmers riding their tractor-trolleys and pick-ups carrying barrels and jerry cans can be seen queuing up at the filling stations to get diesel, particularly in Bhakkar, Layyah and Mianwali districts of Punjab. In most cases, they return empty-handed or get a few litres of diesel.

“At a time when I should have been in my lands to oversee wheat harvesting, I’m forced to line up at petrol pumps to get diesel for my tractor-run thresher,” laments Rana Haider, a farmer from Thal area in Bhakkar.

Talking to Dawn by phone, he says that he has lost his three precious days in search of diesel but failed to find the product and he is paying rent for the threshing machine without using it.

Saeed Baloch, a petrol pump owner in Mianwali, claims the oil marketing companies have introduced quota regimes since April 30 for the first time on the basis of average calculated on the yearly basis and thus are providing them one-fourth of the supplies against the demand.

The companies are also delaying the supplies contrary to their normal routines, he alleges, explaining that he would get oil supply the next day of placing the order. But, since the recent cut in prices, this gap between placement of order and supplies has widened to the minimum four days, creating a severe shortage particularly of diesel, he adds.

He wonders why the government didn’t manage the situation while the state-run Pakistan State Oil had flagged the issued in the first week of May.

An official of the PSO Lahore region alleges that the private oil marketing companies (OMCs) are not supplying petroleum products to their respective dealers and thus the whole pressure has been diverted to the PSO outlets. He says that his entity is supplying one million litres of diesel daily only in Lahore region to meet the wheat harvesting-related demand.

A petroleum dealer, Rehmat Khan Wardag, says OMCs have not placed orders for the import of petroleum products since the recent cut in oil prices. He says the OMCs suffered billions of rupees losses in the process and fears that the volatile situation in the world markets will keep them away from the business in coming weeks, which may lead to severe shortage of oil, particularly diesel, in the local market.

He has urged the government to import oil on its own without delay to fend off the hovering shortage that may plunge the sectors dependent on diesel, particularly the agriculture sector, into a severe crisis.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2020