An oil inquiry commission in 2019 estimated Rs250bn annual revenue loss due to smuggling.—Dawn/file
An oil inquiry commission in 2019 estimated Rs250bn annual revenue loss due to smuggling.—Dawn/file

ISLAMABAD: The increasing scale of smuggling of petroleum products has brought the country’s oil supply chain — from import to refineries and from marketing companies to pipeline transport network — to its knees.

With a massive drop in registered sales, the country’s oil industry has sought emergent action from the prime minister and other state agencies to stop the smuggling of petroleum products that they claim is not only threatening their survival but is estimated to be causing over Rs120 billion in direct annual revenue loss to the government at the rate of about $36 million per month.

Three major petroleum market stakeholders — Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC), 22-member Oil Marketing Companies of Pakistan (OMAP) and Pak-Arab Pipeline Company Ltd (Papco) that transports various products through pipelines — have separately approached the federal government with unprecedented foul play in petroleum trading and sales.

In an urgent communication to the government on Monday, chairman of the 39-member OCAC representing all the local refineries and larger marketing companies Adil Khattak said it was a “pressing issue that posed a severe threat to the oil industry, and consequently jeopardised the stability of government revenue streams”, adding that the staggering influx of 4,000 tonnes of smuggled fuel daily into Pakistan, as confirmed by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), was bleeding the nation of approximately $35.6m per month.

“This national crisis demands swift and aggressive action.”

The sales trend of petrol and high-speed diesel (HSD) during 2022-23 starkly resembled the figures recorded during the tumultuous pandemic period in 2019-20, the OCAC chief said.

While the GDP growth of 6.11pc in FY22 to a contraction of 0.3pc in FY23 may partly explain this downturn; however, unfortunately, the year-to-date sales of petrol and HSD have further plummeted by approximately 6.5pc in July-February 2023-24 when compared to FY23, casting doubts on the veracity of projected GDP growth rate of 1.7pc for FY24.

Similarly, the month-to-date sales figures of petrol and HSD in March exhibit an alarming 12pc and 21pc decline, respectively.

“Such high negative variances signify product glut, lower refinery throughput, choking of White Oil Pipeline (WOP) and restrained sales volumes.

Based on this, Mr Khattack said the illicit trade had disrupted the entire supply chain of petroleum products, adversely affecting the refinery health, WOP operations, and the profitability of OMCs.

The unchecked proliferation of substandard smuggled petroleum products not only drains the government revenue but also fuels a shadow economy, making it increasingly challenging to monitor and regulate illicit activities, says the OCAC chairman, who also leads Rawalpindi-based Attock Refinery besides other Attock Group companies.

OMAP Chairman Tariq Wazir Ali also said the smuggling of Iranian petroleum products into Pakistan was inflicting severe damage on the country’s economy and unjustly impacted OMCs operating within the legal framework, dutifully paying taxes and duties.

He demanded “swift and decisive actions to eradicate this smuggling, reinforcing the rule of law and safeguarding the interests of legitimate businesses that play a vital role in Pakistan’s economic development”.

Papco Chief Amr Ahmed said against a guaranteed 45pc throughput, the utilisation has struggled at 34pc so far. The government should ensure “to achieve 900,000 tonnes of petrol input into WOP between now and end-June 2024” to yield an annualised 45pc mark.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2024

Follow Dawn Business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for insights on business, finance and tech from Pakistan and across the world.

Opinion

Editorial

Security lapses
Updated 13 Apr, 2024

Security lapses

Ensuring the safety of foreign citizens is paramount, not just for diplomatic relations but for our economic future.
An eventful season
13 Apr, 2024

An eventful season

THE Senate chairman and deputy chairman were elected unopposed, and 41 new senators were sworn in on Tuesday,...
Living rough
13 Apr, 2024

Living rough

WE either don’t see them or don’t want to see them — not even when they are actively trying to get our...
Saudi investment
Updated 10 Apr, 2024

Saudi investment

The state has to address barriers that stand in the way of attracting foreign investment, and create a pro-business environment.
Charity for change
Updated 11 Apr, 2024

Charity for change

PAKISTANIS are large-hearted people who empty their pockets at the slightest hint of another’s need. The Stanford...