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Mar 19, 2015

Diesel Shortage Prompts Rationing of Available Fuel at the Pumps

Tonight there is a countrywide shortage of diesel and premium at the pumps amid heavy demand for fuel which is causing a mess in the transport and industrial sectors.  The dearth has been attributed to an increase in activity in the north where the sugar industry is presently in full swing.  The scarcity also coincides with a fall in the cost of petroleum on the world market.  Locally however, retailers have been forced to ration their supply of fuel since the beginning of the week. Initially it was thought that the rationing would have been discontinued by today but there is now word that the next shipment from Venezuela is late in leaving port. In Belize City, the supply of diesel and premium remains low and at one service station we visited earlier today, its quota was exhausted by midday.  According to the manager, the demand for fuel in the public transportation industry has been overwhelming, with bus drivers requesting to purchase well over the normal quantity of fuel to operate their businesses.  While the paucity is not affecting the average motorist, it is gravely inconveniencing the industrial sector, a problem which won’t be relieved until next Tuesday at the earliest.  This afternoon, News Five spoke with Deputy Chairman John Mencias of ALBA Petrocaribe Belize Energy Limited.  He outlined the issue from a broader perspective.


John Mencias, Deputy Chairman, ALBA Petrocaribe Belize

John Mencias

“What goes on in the retail sector I would not be privy to that information.  We, as I had explained earlier, are suppliers to Trafigura who is the supplier to Puma.  So basically we, PDVSA supplies fuel to us, we supply to Trafigura and Trafigura to Puma, Puma to its wholesalers which include Puma itself, Sol and Uno Petrol, or I think they go by the name Uno now and then they to there retail stations and to other customers.  So we are way up here in the supply chain.  I can tell you from that vantage point we’re aware that there has been an increase in demand compared with the January to February period in 2013 and 2014.  For example, we supplied Trafigura and Puma with a hundred and forty-eight thousand barrels of petroleum products January to February 2013.  That increased to a hundred and eighty-one thousand barrels in this similar period in 2014 and for this year 2015 it’s up to a hundred and eighty-nine.  And bear in mind that in this year, Puma, in February, started to supply its own premium fuel.  So you can see that demand locally has spiked.  They informed me that diesel, for example, increased by twenty-five percent compared to last year in January by twenty-five percent too, compared to last year in February and is probably up to thirty percent already, it’s trending that way, in March, for diesel.  We know that there’s been increased activity up north due to the onset of the sugar season but there is a difference, there’s a differential in price with Chetumal and across the border and we believe that that could also be the cause, not necessarily maybe that diesel is going across the border but maybe trucks that are passing through would then full up here in Belize instead of over in Chetumal because of the lower prices here.  So we believe that those are the main causes of the increase in demand.  On the supply side, what has happened is that we, ALBA Petrocaribe and PDVSA has been late with the shipment that was due to arrive here latest the seventeenth of this month.  Today we are at the eighteenth now, the nineteenth and the ship is expected to load until later tonight.  So if it leaves tomorrow you give it four days before it reaches Belize, I would say it should be here roughly next Tuesday.”


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