Maputo — The Mozambican government has promised that the shortage of cooking gas in the Greater Maputo Metropolitan Area will be over by Wednesday.
The promise came after discussions between government officials and the Portuguese company Galp, which bottles the gas.
Galp's excuse is that it had to stop bottling the gas during work on expanding its premises in the city of Matola. This coincided with an increased demand for cooking gas (which is normal in June, at the start of the Mozambican winter).
According to Paulo Varela, of the Galp public relations department, cited in Tuesday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais", bottling the gas could not continue at the same time as work on expanding the Galp installations, for reasons of safety.
"In order to preserve the lives and physical integrity of our workers, we think it better to fill the bottles at night, while the building work continues during the day", said Varela.
He claimed that, to cope with the increased demand, Galp increased the supply of bottled gas between Saturday and Monday. In those three days "we put 27,000 bottles of gas on the market". This was 9,000 bottles a day, compared with the normal supply of 7.000 bottles a day.
Varela insisted that the gas is available, and that efforts are being made, during the nights, to fill up bottles, so that the sales points do not run out of this fuel.
But the sad fact is that by Monday of them did not have stocks of gas. Because so many households in Maputo and Matola had already run out of gas, any bottles put on the market were immediately snapped up. Car-owning households drove from one sales point to another on Sunday and Monday, looking for gas often without success. Long queues built up - but only those at the front of the queues were fortunate enough to obtain gas.
The government seems unimpressed by Galp's excuses, and has insisted that the company step up the pace of filling gas bottles. "We are working with the company to reformulate its shifts, so as to reduce he hours spent on the building work, in order to allow an extra shift for filling the bottles", explained Moises Paulino, the National Director of Hydrocarbons and Fuels. He hoped that "by Wednesday, this situation of high demand will have passed into history".
He confirmed that the shortage of bottled gas had led to price speculation. Paulino said the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy is working with the National Inspectorate of Economic Activities (INAE) to put an end to the speculation.
Some people, he added, are buying more bottles of gas than they need "which may also be one of the factors behind the shortage of cooking gas in Greater Maputo".
Paulino insisted that there is no real shortage of gas. The country, he said, has enough gas for the next 25 days, and within ten days more ships are due to arrive carrying this fuel.
Varela said that Galp too is working with the authorities to end any price speculation. He added that the expansion of the Galp installations should be completed by December.
The shortage of gas hits consumers in the pocket. Electricity is more expensive than gas, and so is wood fuel. The use of firewood or charcoal for cooking is also environmentally damaging, making a significant contribution to deforestation.