10/04/2008 (The News International, Pakistan), Karachi - Sindh government will hold negotiations on Thursday for settlement of a confrontation between owners of private oil-trucks and edible oil manufacturers that has fanned fears of shortage of commodity in coming days.
In this regard, Sindh Industries Secretary Rasul Bux Palpato has been asked to meet representatives of All Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association (APOTOA) following intervention of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Wednesday.
The supply of crude palm oil from port city of Karachi to other parts of the country has been suspended since April 3 when private oil-trucks went on a strike over involvement of state-owned National Logistic Cell (NLC) in their business.
In a statement issued here, Pakistan Vanaspati Manufacturers Association (PVMA) said half of its units are closed because of the chaos created by private transporters and the situation could result in total closure of cooking oil factories in 3-4 days.
The row, however, does not appear to be cooling down anytime soon as Bakhtawar Khan, Chairman APOTOA, told The News that there could not be any sharing of transport business with NLC. “You give them (NLC) the contract and all the labour associated with 5,000 oil tankers will be unemployed,” he said.
Edible oil price has already scaled up by Rs4 per kg since palm oil supply was suspended and will go up further if the situation is not brought under control, said a PVMA member.
PVMA had entered into a contract with NLC last December for supplying small part of imported palm oil from Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and Port Qasim Authority (PQA) to their factories in a bid to use reliable logistics.
“Presently NLC is only transporting 10 percent of total supply. Its share would not be more than 20 percent,” said Sheikh Amjad Rasheed, former chairman PVMA. “There is no point for private contractors to protest especially when edible oil consumption has been increasing and there is always more to be transported.”
Pakistan one of the biggest consumers of edible oil, imports approximately 1,20,000 tonnes of palm oil every month. Continuing strike by private contractors has also jeopardized fate of 50,000 tonnes palm oil consignment, which will reach Karachi in 3-4 days. Importers fear paying demurrage charge if the strike persists.
The decision to contract part of palm oil transport to NLC was made to ensure that supply is not interrupted on small pretexts and that incidents like theft do not take place. “If they are not willing to change their demand regarding exclusion of NLC,” said Rasheed, “we will neither for NLC’s inclusion.”