Coronavirus lockdown | Cooking gas shortage a possibility in Kerala

Closure of wayside hotels deters tanker drivers from attempting 18-hour journey

March 27, 2020 07:32 pm | Updated March 28, 2020 09:32 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

The lockdown has hit the movement of LPG tankers from Mangalapuram in Karnataka to the Indian Oil Corporation bottling plant in Kollam. Photo for representation.

The lockdown has hit the movement of LPG tankers from Mangalapuram in Karnataka to the Indian Oil Corporation bottling plant in Kollam. Photo for representation.

The fourth day of the COVID-19 lockdown on Friday raised the prospect of a shortage of cooking gas cylinders in the State.

G. Sanal, general secretary, All India LPG Distributors Federation (Kerala circle), says gas agencies in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and parts of Alappuzha are not able to meet the demand from consumers.

From Mangalapuram

The 80-odd distributors in the region supply cooking gas to over 13 lakh households. The lockdown has hit the movement of LPG tankers from Mangalapuram in Karnataka to the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) bottling plant in Kollam.

The closure of wayside hotels has deterred gas tanker drivers from attempting the nearly 18-hour journey from the LPG terminal to the refilling plant, an estimated 550 km. The number of LPG loads has lessened since last Saturday. Another distributor says the backlog of orders has mounted to 1,200 in the past 48 hours and is climbing.

The curfew has whittled down the number of employees to fewer than five an agency. The lockdown has hit doorstep delivery. Customers say their calls for refills often go unanswered. With gas stoves running low on fuel and timely supply of refills in doubt, many have turned to hotplates and microwave ovens, a move that could send electricity bills spiralling.

IOC response

An IOC official in Kochi told The Hindu that the lockdown has triggered panic buying of cooking gas across the country and Kerala was no exception. “As soon as customers get a refill, they order the next cylinder. The demand for a refill has gone up by 50%. The number of returns of empty cylinders to refilling units has dwindled. In the past four days, the IOC has upped its shipments to distributors by 25% to meet the orders,” he said.

Essential service

The officer says the fears of distributors seem misplaced. The IOC customarily meets temporary shortfall in cylinders in the State from the Kochi refinery plant. It could also import additional loads from its refilling plant in Madurai. At present, there is no lack of availability of LPG in the State, he says.

The government has declared LPG distribution an essential service.

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