HARARE – Zimbabwe has increased mandatory petrol blending from 10 percent to 15 percent due to improved supplies of ethanol.
Only a month ago, the threshold was increased from five percent to 10 percent.
In March, President Robert Mugabe’s government had reduced from 15 percent to five percent the mandatory amount of local ethanol to be blended with unleaded petrol after encountering glitches in the supply of sugar used to manufacture ethanol.
Now that the supply of ethanol has improved in the Lowveld, government is scaling up blending percentages.
In a notice published in the latest Government Gazette, Energy minister Samuel Undenge said he has since approved the increase.
“It is hereby notified that, in terms of section 4(1) of the petroleum (mandatory blending of Anhydrous Ethanol with Unleaded Petrol) Regulations, 2013, published in statutory Instrument 81 of 2014, the minister approves the current level of mandatory blending to 15 per centum,” said Undenge.
“The consequence of this approval is that all licensed operators shall, from the date of publication of this mandated to sell unleaded petrol blended at E15.”
Zimbabwe obtains ethanol from a $600 million sugar plant in the southeast of the country, jointly owned by a State company and private investors, which has capacity to produce 250 000 litres of ethanol a day; and from Triangle, wholly-owned by South Africa’s Tongaat Hullett, which has a 50,3 percent stake in Hippo Valley.
The Triangle plant has the capacity to produce 3,6 million litres of ethanol, made out of sugarcane by-product.
Between December and April, sugar cane harvesting is halted to enable plant maintenance, leading to a moratorium in the production of ethanol.
The off-crop season is now over, and sugar milling has resumed, resulting in a boost in ethanol supplies.
Official figures show the Southern African country spends some $45 million each month to import fuel.
This comes as Zimbabwe’s fuel prices have remained very high compared to other countries in the sub-region despite government’s unilateral decision to enforce mandatory blending of petroleum products almost four years ago, claiming it would bring down prices and reduce the country’s import bill.
The E10 blend, which should be cheaper than unleaded fuel, was going for between $1,35 and $1,39 per litre at service stations in Zimbabwe, which was far more expensive than several countries in the region using unleaded fuel.
The country’s neighbours Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Swaziland all have cheaper petrol costing $1,06, $1,19, $1,08, $1,29 and $1,14 per litre respectively.
In Zambia, a landlocked country like Zimbabwe, unleaded fuel is currently selling for $1,10 per litre, while in Tanzania the commodity is selling for $1,05 per litre.
The average pump price for unleaded fuel in South Africa is $1,09 per litre while in Namibia petrol costs about $1 per litre.