The governorates of Minya and Sharqiya were hit by a shortage of butane gas cylinders on Monday, with prices doubling in some cities. Citizens say the sale of butane gas cylinders is monopolized by black-market traders, with no effective action from the government to solve the problem.
In the city of Faqous, Sharqiya, Mohamed Rashed said black-market merchants monopolize the cylinders to sell them at inflated prices, while the Supply Ministry's departments in the governorate did not have enough in stock to meet demand.
Rashed added that he was compelled to buy a cylinder at LE25, whereas before the shortage he used to buy them at LE12.
Hamdi al-Sherbiny, the head of the supply directorate for the governorate, said that the main reason for the shortage is that the ministry didn’t deliver the governorate its allocation of butane gas, causing a shortage in some cities, in addition to the increased demand on butane gas cylinders ahead of Eid al-Adha.
In Minya, meanwhile, cylinders reached LE30 on the black market. Citizens are complaining of the shortage and say there are no stocks left at government outlets.
Mahmoud Youseff, deputy supply minister for the governorate, said 55,000 butane cylinders are being sent daily to government outlets to fulfill demand before Eid, which starts on Sunday.
He added that the current shortage is because citizens are stocking butane cylinders.
An official with the Supply Ministry in Cairo told Al-Masry Al-Youm that by the end of this week there will be no shortage of cylinders, adding that the ministry is sending more gas cylinders to the market.
The source said the crisis is limited, mostly affecting the following governorates: Cairo, Qalyubiya, Menufiya, Sharqiya, Beni Suef and Fayoum. He added that with more cylinders supplied to the market, the crisis will be over.
The Division of Petroleum Products at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce has said that the crisis will be over before Eid al-Adha, with petroleum ministry increasing the output of butane gas to 1.2 cylinders daily.
Hossam Arafat, head of the Petroleum Products division, said that the quantity of butane gas available has dropped to 950,000 cylinders daily since August 1. He said the drop was due to a lack of transportation, which caused a shortage that in turn caused people to hoard cylinders.
Cairo, which is in the midst of talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure a $12 billion three-year loan programme, is trying to cut its budget deficit through a number of reforms. They include tax increases and a plan to wean the population off a decades-old subsidy regime that has often benefited the highest-earning households.
Egypt began a five-year programme of price increases in 2014 to gradually eliminate domestic electricity subsidies.
Butane gas cylinders are one of subsidized commodities. In 2013 the government raised the prices of the butane gas cylinder officially from LE3.5 to LE8, but no merchants stick to the official price. The government says one butane gas cylinder costs LE60.