Butane cylinders hit LE60 amid ongoing shortages

A severe shortage of butane gas cylinders continued to dog Cairo and the provinces Sunday, with the price of a single gas cylinder reaching as high as LE60 on the local black market in some places.

Some members of the public hold the government responsible for the crisis, accusing it of being unable to thwart what they described as the "mafia" manipulating trade and distribution of the commodity.

"When will the government move?" asked Cairo resident Othman Qadri. "When the price of a single cylinder hits LE100?"

Al-Masry Al-Youm managed to take photos of two trucks belonging to the Nile Delta province of Daqahliya (license plate nos. 30 and 31) selling gas cylinders to informal street vendors rather than to licensed distribution outlets. These cylinders quickly ended up on the black market where they were sold at inflated prices.

According to one such vendor, speaking on condition of anonymity, provincial officials sold them cylinders in return for hefty commissions. But a provincial official, also speaking anonymously, claimed he had sold the cylinders to informal vendors–at official prices–because he could not find anyone else to sell them to.

In the coastal city of Alexandria, police intercepted a van loaded with 100 gas cylinders, the owners of which had reportedly been attempting to sell them on the black market. In Damietta, two butane factories were caught filling cylinders with smaller quantities of gas than has been set by the Supply Ministry.

The General Petroleum Authority, for its part, announced it was supplying outlets with 100,000 extra cylinders every day in an effort to meet demand in heavily populated areas. "Since the beginning of February, we’ve supplied the market with 8 percent more than our usual quota," Authority President Abdel Alim Taha said Sunday.

The shortage in gas cylinders has led to the eruption of fist fights in front of butane distribution outlets in a number of provinces.

In the Middle Egyptian province of Minya, where gas cylinder prices have soared to LE14 each, a number of brawls have been reported. Several people were also reported injured in the delta province of Sharqiya as a result of fights over limited numbers of gas cylinders.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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