Fuel retailers Indian Oil Corporation, BPCL and HPCL have urged customers not to resort to panic buying as sufficient petrol and diesel stocks were available. The appeal came as petroleum dealers continued to complain about not being given adequate supplies on time.
The state-run companies, who between them command the lion’s share of fuel sales, sought to reiterate the fuel availability in their tweets. “There is sufficient product availability and supplies to retail outlets are being met in line with demand. Request not to panic. We reassure our full commitment to serve you at all times without interruption,” IOC Marketing Director V. Satish Kumar tweeted.
Bharat Petroleum Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, whose outlets have been under the limelight ever since dealers last month accused them of rationing fuel supplies, also asserted that they were committed to serving customers. There was adequate product availability and supplies across their network in all markets, they said, citing unprecedented growth in fuel demand at retail outlets in a few States.
Contesting oil refiners’ assertions, some dealers and their associations pointed to issues including less-than-sought to no supplies for some outlets in Haryana, and how one of the companies had been unable to execute indents placed 3-4 days in advance with full payment in Uttar Pradesh. In a post on Twitter, one dealer said Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and many more States were suffering ‘dry outs’ due to lack of diesel supply by OMCs.
Senior OMC officials contend that incidents of ‘stock outs’ at outlets are not on account of curtailed supplies. Such incidents, they say, are tied to dealers who are unable to pay upfront for indents after BPCL and HPCL had withdrawn credit facilities.
Leaders of petroleum dealers’ association, who spoke on condition of anonymity, asserted that while the withdrawal of credit facility was indeed an issue, oil companies were for their part not honouring all the indents placed with them, and also taking time to supply.
The leaders as well as oil company officials, who did not wish to be identified, said that at the heart of the issue was the dual pricing of diesel, with supplies to bulk consumers such as road transport corporations priced at about ₹25 more per litre. This was leading to bulk consumers fuelling at retail outlets, resulting in a ‘loss’ for the oil companies.
Compounding the problem for the oil marketers was an apparent lack of ‘real freedom’ to price petrol and diesel in tandem with crude oil prices, despite the government technically having deregulated product prices. The OMCs also pointed to a surge in retail sales, as most fuel outlets of private retailers were no longer operational.
On increased sales, BPCL said it was on account “of shifting of customers, due to reported lack of supplies or higher prices at private marketing companies’ fuel stations”. With more vehicles at the outlets of PSUs, regular customers in many cities were complaining of longer turnaround times.
“Customers fill wherever fuel is available instead of going to their preferred outlets,” said M. Amarender Reddy, president of Telangana Petroleum Dealers Association.