Yangyel Lhaden

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) delivery agents in Thimphu are overwhelmed with the rising demand for LPG cylinders.

On average, the delivery agents receive between 15 and 20 orders of LPG cylinders every day whereas they receive about 10 LPG cylinders per pick-up truck from three POL (petroleum, oil, lubricants) agents daily.

Deki Choden, a resident in Changzamtog placed an order for a refilled cylinder. It took almost a week for the delivery agent to deliver the cylinder.

Many residents in Thimphu say they are frustrated about the delay in delivery of LPG cylinders during the lockdown.

A businessman said that he had to constantly call the LPG distributor for several days until he received the LPG cylinder. “Lockdown can be a hassle if we are not prepared beforehand.”

Chimi Wangchuk, the owner of CK gas delivery, said that delay in delivering LPG was due to high demand and low supply. “We try to clear backlog orders and deliver orders within three days. Currently, I have 30 backlog orders to clear.”

He said that when clients have preferred colour coding of LPG cylinder they would have to wait longer. For example, a green LPG cylinder takes longer to deliver because only Damchen Petroleum supplies it.

Jigme Singye, owner of Nazhoen Gas Delivery said that in many cases people did not pick up their phone even after calling several times when we went to deliver LPG. “We give priority to the next order in line and deliver the LPG to them and that’s how the order gets delayed when people don’t pick up their phone.”

He said that he informed his clients that the order would take time beforehand so that people did not get frustrated. “Fulfilling orders is not a problem if there is adequate supply.”

However, an official from the economic affairs ministry said that at the end of the day agents compiled the detail of delivery made to the Regional Office of Economic Affairs (ROEA), Thimphu and depending on the backlog of each and every delivery agent, ROEA advises POL retail outlets to increase or decrease the supply. “Whenever there is a shortage, ROEA informs the Department of Trade which directs POL retail outlet headquarter in Phuentsholing to immediately supply to meet the shortage in POL outlets in Thimphu.”

He said that the economic affairs ministry had an adequate stock of LPG that could last 20 days and 63 days for subsidised and non-subsidised cylinders in the country. “Unlike normal times when LPG delivery agents can only lift maximum 15 refill cylinders, during the lockdown they can lift as many as available with PoL agents.”

POL agents need to take into account the number of refilled cylinders available with them for walk-in clients, institutional demands such as armed forces, and meeting the demand of LPG delivery agents, the official added.

However, LPG delivery agents said that only Bhutan Oil Distributor in Motithang was able to stock daily whereas others could stock once or twice a week.

Chimi Wangchuk said that from oil distributors the agents received about 10 cyliinders daily per pick-up truck and he received between 15 and 20 daily for two pickup trucks. “When three retail outlets stock up at the same time, we are able to get about 30 LPG.”

The economic affairs ministry official said that LPG cylinders supply fluctuated in Thimphu depending on the Covid test requirement and driver switching modality. “There shouldn’t be any concern on LPG supply as every effort is being made to facilitate the import on a regular basis.”

Jigme Singye said that people might be stocking up. “There is strict instruction from the ministry to supply a household with only one cylinder which we keep track with a citizenship identity card (CID) but there are chances other people from the same household must be also ordering with CID of other people in the household.”

One of the LPG agents said that the white LPG cylinder that the economic affairs ministry imported during the second lockdown was a problem. “Only Damchen Petroleum accept white LPG cylinder and we are only able to exchange once a week because Damchen supplies once a week or once in nine days.”

Meanwhile, 4,872 LPG cylinders were delivered by White LPG agents in Thimphu between January 18 and February 8.