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Fuel prices raised in Sri Lanka as energy crisis worsens

COLOMBO (AFP) – One of Sri Lanka’s biggest fuel suppliers put up its prices by as much as 12 per cent on yesterday, as the cash-strapped island’s energy crisis worsened.

Lanka IOC, a fuel retailer which accounts for a third of the market, said it was increasing prices for diesel – commonly used by public transport – by 12 per cent, and petrol up 11 per cent. The increases came after a seven percent price rise three weeks ago and will add to the upward pressure on inflation, already at a record high.

The island is in the grips of an economic crisis after the tourism sector, a key foreign-exchange earner, collapsed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government imposed a broad import ban in March 2020 in an effort to save foreign currency. The country is now suffering widespread shortages, including fuel and electricity, with supermarkets forced to ration staple foods including rice, sugar and milk powder.

There was no immediate energy price revision by the state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), but most of its pumps have been out of fuel for days.

Energy minister Udaya Gammanpila announced this week that he expected fuel shortages to ease in “days”, but warned that a sharp price increase was necessary to retain the viability of the loss-making CPC.

Gammanpila said the CPC continued to haemorrhage cash and was already carrying debts exceeding USD3.5 billion. The CPC loss for last year was USD450 million, he added.

“Earlier, we were short of dollars to import oil. Now we don’t have the rupees to buy the dollars,” Gammanpila said.

A worker fills petrol in a scooter at a Lanka IOC station. PHOTO: AFP
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