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KATHMANDU: Nepal Oil Corporation today described the shortage of petroleum products in the Kathmandu Valley as ‘artificial’, saying it was triggered by supply disruption during public holidays.

The clarification from NOC came after most of the state-owned petrol pumps in the Valley saw serpentine queues of customers while most of the private petrol stations remained closed.

“The lines seen in Valley’s petrol pumps are a result of panic buying,” NOC Director Sushil Bhattarai told THT. “One of the reasons is supply disruption during public holidays.” There were three public holidays recently — on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. “Since NOC usually does not supply petroleum products on holidays, many petrol pumps that had exhausted their reserves failed to refill them on time,” Bhattarai said.

Although NOC claims to have distributed 550 kilolitres of petrol on Friday to Valley’s pumps, Bhattarai informed that ‘the supply petered out quickly due to public holidays on Saturday and Sunday’. “To compensate this, we distributed another 550 kilolitres of petrol to Valley’s petrol pumps yesterday,” Bhattarai said.

The amount of petrol received by Valley’s pumps on Friday and Monday is higher than per day demand of around 350 kilolitres. Yet, many buyers were struggling to get hold of the commodity.

“This was because of uneven distribution of the product among pumps here due to holidays. The situation will normalise by tomorrow, as most of the petrol stations received adequate supply today,” Spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, Dipak Subedi, said, adding that there is no need for the people to worry as NOC’s Thankot depot has around 1.8 million litres of petroleum products in stock.

However, NOC officials could not rule out foul play in the shortage. “Indian Oil Corporation raised per litre price of petrol meant for distribution in Nepal by Rs 1.6 on March 1. Since most of the petroleum dealers were aware of this, they may have hoarded the product, anticipating that the government would raise the price of the commodity. This could also have caused the shortage,” Bhattarai said.

Despite these arguments, what could happen if Nepal fails to clear debt that it owes to IOC — from where the country gets all its petroleum supplies — is anyone’s guess.

Nepal needs to make a payment of IRs 5.30 billion (Rs 8.48 billion) to IOC by March 8, including outstanding debt of IRs 1.74 billion (Rs 2.78 billion) that had piled up till February.

Crisis despite pumping oil into pumps!

•    NOC says it distributed 550 kilolitres of petrol on Friday to Valley’s pumps

•    To compensate non-distribution on holidays on Saturday and Sunday, NOC supplied another 550 kilolitres of petrol on Monday

•    The amount of petrol received by Valley’s pumps on Friday and Monday is more than per day demand of around 350 kilolitres, NOC claims

•    Though NOC says the holidays could have triggered the shortage, it has not ruled out foul play, saying the hike in price by IOC could have prompted the dealers to hoard the product, fuelling the crisis

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