After a respite of several months, long-winding queues resurfaced a week ago prompting a quick response from illegal dealers who have hiked prices.
The price of petrol has risen from US$1,20 per litre to as high as US$1,50 per litre on the black market, but at a few filling stations with stock, a litre is pegged at US$1,30.
Fuel dealers said the rise in local prices was because of increases in crude oil price on the international market and “logistical problems at Mozambique’s Beira port from where Zimbabwe gets most of its supplies”.
They said rising water levels at the Mozambican port are making it difficult for ships to dock, resulting in delays in fuel delivery.
Crude oil prices on the international market this week inched closer to US$90 per barrel, but for a greater part of the year it was trading in the US$70s.
The cost of crude oil and refined petrol and diesel on the world market is influenced by a number of factors, including global demand, supply, political events and manufacturing capability.
Crude oil makes up a significant portion of the cost of fuel and is traded in US dollars as a commodity on the international market.
Refineries purchase crude oil on the international market to refine it into petrol and diesel. The refined product is also traded on the international market and has its own pricing.
Minister of Energy and Power Development Elton Mangoma yesterday told the Zimbabwe Independent that though there could be isolated fuel shortages in the country, one of the largest fuel dealers — Sakunda — on Tuesday assured him that there is “enough stock for the holiday period countrywide”.
“Generally, there has been a slight rise of prices on the international market due to a freeze in the northern hemisphere and that had pushed the demand high. Locally, we might experience minor shortages” said Mangoma.
Mangoma said a rise on the international market and the current Christmas and New Year holidays has resulted in some “unscrupulous dealers wanting to make a few bucks”. He urged the nation not to panic.
“I was in conversation with officials from Sakunda yesterday (Tuesday) and they assured me that they have enough stocks for the holidays,” Mangoma said. “But some people may want to take advantage of isolated shortages to make a few bucks during the holidays.”
But fuel attendants spoken to this week said they have “limited supplies of fuel” for the holidays.
“Over the past two weeks, queues have been forming here (filling station) as we have limited supplies. But motorists are just panicking hence the emergency of the black market,” said one fuel attendant.
He added that they have been forced to limit to just 15 litres per vehicle and on Wednesday morning there was a visible presence of police details at most stations.
Transport fares between Bulawayo and Harare have gone up to US$20 from the usual US$12. It could not be verified whether this had a link to the fuel shortages.