An acute diesel shortage has hit the Mekong Delta in the last few days because of smuggling to Cambodia where the fuel costs more.
Hundreds of people wait in long queue to buy diesel oil at Petrolimex Tan Hung pumping station on March 27, 2011 Photo: Tuoi Tre
With the winter-spring rice harvest peaking, farmers, who require the fuel for their pumps, are forced to queue at gas stations from early morning.
For the last several days, many filling stations in Long An, An Giang, Kien Giang, and Dong Thap have in fact stopped selling diesel.
Vo Van Chien, a farmer from Vinh Hung District in Long An Province, said he waited from 5am at a fuel station and after two hours was given only 10 liters.
“An attendant told me that was the maximum sold to a single buyer and if I needed more I had come again the following day,” Chien told Tuoi Tre.
The situation was similar at Petrolimex Tan Hung pumping station in the same district where more than 100 buyers had queued up to buy a maximum of 10 liters.
“The field is lush with ripening rice, and without fuel how can we run harvesting machines?” Pham Van Sau, a farmer from the loval Hung Dien commune, said.
In other, farmers have harvested their crop and need to pump water to till the land for the next crop.
In Tri Ton District in An Giang Province and Hon Dat, Kien Luong, and Giang Thanh in Kien Giang, there are hardly any machines in use due to the shortage of fuel.
Fishermen are also facing trouble with many of their boats remaining beached as they wait for fuel.
Each boat requires 12,000 – 15,000 liters of diesel while gas stations only sell 10 liters.
Dam Ba Van, director of the Long An fuel company, the local distributor for the Vietnam Fuel Corporation, admitted the scarcity of diesel is causing trouble for farmers and fishermen.
He listed three reasons for the fuel shortage: the growing demand from farmers for harvesting, smuggling across the border to Cambodia, and the reduction in sales commission that has discouraged gas stations from selling diesel.
But it does not mean there is a scarcity in Vietnam, he said, adding “provincial fuel companies will meet the demand for fuel in a couple of days.”
Nguyen Ai Viet, chief of the An Giang market management unit, said his officials will collaborate with relevant agencies to stop the smuggling soon.
But fuel stations will continue to sell only 10 liters to a buyer to prevent speculation until the supply returns to normal, he added.
Local market management authorities will keep a closer eye on gas stations and severely penalize any caught hoarding fuel to sell on the black market.
Since February 24 a liter of diesel has cost VND18,300, or VND4,000 – 5,000 cheaper than in Cambodia.