Motorists feel the pinch as fuel prices continue to rise

The price board of Shell fuel station on Jinja Road in Kampala yesterday. Photo | File

What you need to know:

  • Mr Samuel Adomati, a boda boda cyclist in Arua City, says the fuel which they used to rely on from dealers in DR Congo has also risen from Shs5,000 to Shs6,100 a litre.

Motorists have continued to grapple with persistent high fuel prices, forcing some to park their cars and occasionally use them on weekends.

Fuel filling stations across the country have increased their prices, with a litre crossing the Shs6,000 mark.

This is an average increase of Shs1,400 from the price before the crisis hit the country at the close of 2021.

For example, in some parts of Kalangala islands, a litre of petrol currently goes for Shs8,000, which has also forced fishermen to suspend fishing.

With his low-consuming car, Mr Sulait Kafeero, a resident of Kyengera in Wakiso District, says he could spend Shs170,000 to fill up his fuel tank in the past when a litre cost Shs3,400.

That would take him a week driving to Kampala and back home, but today, the same amount only buys 29 litres which gets used up in three days.

“So, when a litre reached Shs6,000, I resorted to public means. On a boda boda, I use about Shs15,000 to and fro, which is less than when I am driving,” he says.

Boda boda is a quicker means of transport and fairly affordable for many Ugandans.

However, to cope with the current situation, even the boda boda operators in some urban centres across the country have decided to hike the transport fares for various routes.

Mr Sam Odongo, the chairperson of Lira City Boda Boda Association, says it is no longer cost-effective to continue charging passengers old fares given the high fuel prices coupled with the current economic hardships.

“On Thursday last week, I held a meeting with all the representatives of boda boda riders from various stages in Lira and we resolved to increase fares for town services by Shs1,000,” he said .

Pump price for petrol in Lira City currently ranges between Shs6,000 and 6,100  per litre.

Mr Francis Enang, the spokesperson for Lira City Boda Boda Association, said many of their members are unable to feed their families due to the skyrocketing prices of petrol.

“Many riders who got on loans are the ones suffering the most. Most of the companies giving out these bikes are taking back their bikes due to failure by the riders to service their loans. As a result, they are unable to look after their families or pay fees for their children,” he says.

Mr Elijah Ndyamusiima, an Uber driver in Kampala, says whereas the prices have abnormally shot up, clients aren’t willing to adjust to the current situation by increasing fare hence leaving him in losses.

 “Our prices are set according to the distance ,but we are now stuck because our customers don’t want to increase the fare. This means that I have to put in a lot of fuel yet the returns are very low. The most reasonable thing to do now is to park the car and look for something else to do until fuel prices reduce,” Mr Ndyamusiima says .

He blames  the government for failing to find a lasting solution to the fuel crisis yet they have the capacity to engage their global partners.

Mr Ndymusiima’s plight mirrors the city's general problem among mobile application drivers.

This newspaper yesterday found out that some motorists have resorted to switching off the apps so as to set their own fare, which is slightly higher than the set fare by the company.

“The fuel prices have been rising ,but our commission has remained the same. This affects us because you have to incur a lot of money, but this money can’t reflect on my commission to buy fuel. Companies should now be thinking of increasing our commission, lest we uninstall the transport apps,” Mr Muhammad Mubiru, a boda boda cyclist at the Jinja road stage, said.

Mr Ssesanga Akirewo, a boda boda rider in Mpigi Town, says he has now ventured into brick laying because the boda boda business is currently not profitable.

A price board of Total fuel station on Wampeewo Avenue in Kampala as of yesterday afternoon. PHOTOS / ABUBAKER LUBOWA

“ Before the fuel prices started to rise, I was making Shs50,000 daily and used to save 20,000, these days, I take home only Shs5,000 which is not even enough to feed my family. So, that is why I decided to concentrate on bricklaying and I will return to the boda boda business when the fuel prices reduce,”  he says.

Mr  Joseph Mukiibi, a truck driver in Buwama Town used to spend Shs150,000 on fuel for a return journey to Mbarara to buy agricultural produce but now, the same journey costs him Shs400,000.

“These days I buy from dealers who bring the produce. I only go to Mbarara when someone is ready to pay Shs400,000 for fuel and some reasonable pocket money,”  he says.

Mr Ronald Tugume, a boda boda rider in Fort Portal City, says he spends Shs13,000 on fuel daily unlike in the past where he would use Shs10,000.

“Our profits have reduced, in the past I could use Shs10,000 and get a profit of Shs30,000, but today, Shs10,000 is spent and only get  Shs15,000,”  he says .

Previously, Mr Tugume says he could make a profit of between Shs40,000 and Shs50,000 unlike today where he can hardly earn  Shs15,000.

The chairperson Bundibugyo Boda Boda Riders Association, Mr Abubaker  Musoke, says they have agreed to double their transport fares because of the skyrocketing fuel prices.

“For example, travelling from Bundibugyo Town to Nyahuka Town Council, one is required to pay  Shs4,000 up from Shs2,000,”  Mr Musoke said.

Mr Samuel Adomati, a boda boda cyclist in Arua City, says the fuel which they used to rely on from dealers in DR Congo has also risen from Shs5,000 to Shs6,100 a litre.

“We have raised the transport fares because of the increasing prices and this has slowed down business. Some of our customers are opting to walk from town to their homes, especially evening hours,” he says.

Mr David Candiga, a transporter, said few people are currently hiring vehicles because their businesses are also not doing well .

“We have also raised the fares because of the high fuel price. The government should stop joking about this fuel crisis because it is the one that drives the economy. Without it, how will people transport building materials, food items or travel to fend for their families?” he asked.


Boda cyclists quit

The chairperson for Kabale Boda Boda Association, Mr Allan Bwashesha, says many association members have parked the motorcycles because they cannot afford high fuel prices.

“Passengers have refused to pay the slightly increased transport fares and this has adversely affected our business,” Mr Bwashesha says.

Mr Chris Bigambwa, a lorry driver that transports matooke from Ntungamo District to Kisoro Town, says he has now opted for short journeys. 

“I was using fuel worth Shs250,000 to transport matooke from Ntungamo to Kisoro Town ,but ever since the fuel prices increased, I use  fuel worth Shs400,000. After observing that I am not making profits, I have decided to abandon the long route,”  Mr Bigambwa says.

He says the prices of vehicle spare parts have also gone up.

In Soroti City, the cheapest fuel station currently sells a litre of petrol at Shs6,000, while diesel buys between Shs6,050 and Shs6,100 at respective petrol stations.

All Shell outlets in the city have remained closed since Thursday due to lack of  fuel.

At Total filling  stations, a litre of diesel is sold at Shs 6,050 while petrol costs  Shs6,030.  Managers are not certain of whether their current stock will last for more than three days.

“We are the only ones in the heart of Soroti City with fuel, all the motorists are running here,” Mr Mark Okello, a  pump attendant at Total Star filling station,  says .

He says a few days ago, they were selling fuel at Shs5,950, and Shs5,850, but the scarcity has pushed the prices  slightly higher .

Mr Okello says they do not sell more than 10 litres to motorbike riders to ensure that all clients are served.

Ms Joan Akiding, a resident in Soroti City, says:  “If  Total also runs out of fuel, I will be forced to park my car because I don’t trust the quality of fuel from other fuel filling stations.”

Mr Fred Mubiru, another rider at Malaba border, says they cross to Kenya to fuel their motorcycles because it is slightly cheaper.

In Kenya, a litre of fuel costs Shs135 equivalent to Shs4, 455.

 Mr Henry Oyese, a retired head teacher in Tororo  District, says he has decided to park his car  because he can longer afford fuel.

Dr Patricia Litho, the head of communication at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, said the possibility of fuel prices dropping in the next few months is minimal .

“We are better off not speculating on fuel prices. We still have the underlying issues affecting prices, including the Ukraine -Russia war. The price factor is global. Not unique to Uganda,” she said.

Dr Litho says the government will continue to ensure a free and fair competitive environment for the industry.

“Key determinates such as international crude oil prices, refinery gate prices for the products, shipment and handling charges, dollar, Uganda shilling exchange rate  are not in our contro,”she adds.

In Mbale City, most of the fuel stations are selling petrol between Shs5,799 to Shs6,055 while diesel goes for Shs5,699 to 5,800.

In Masaka City, many fuel stations are selling petrol at between Shs5,920 and Shs6,920 , up from Shs5,200 two months ago. A litre of diesel goes ranges between Shs5,880 and Shs6,150.

Mr Abdul Kiyemba, a boda boda cyclist in Kijjabwemi, a  city suburb, says he currently concentrates on only trips which are economically gainful .

“When I realise that I am not making any profit on a particular trip, I advise the client to try elsewhere,” he says.

However, Mr Rogers Ngobi , a boda boda rider at Biashara stage in Jinja City, says despite the rising fuel prices, he still makes some  profits .

“It is true our profits have reduced, but we get something that can make us remain in business, we only stopped saving in our Sacco until the situation normalises, ’’ Mr Ngobi  said.

Background

Fuel prices began rising in July 2021 from Shs3,700 for petrol and Shs3,200 diesel. By December 2021, a litre of petrol cost Shs4,580 yet demand was low due to restrictions of certain sectors of the economy. During the 2021/2022 Financial Year, the government increased excise duty on fuel from Shs1,350 to  Shs1,450 per litre of  petrol. The tax on diesel rose from Shs1,030 to Shs1,130 per litre.

Experts say this is partly to blame for high pump prices, but it is not enough to explain the sharp increase in the last six  months, which some believe is spurred by price manipulation. Early this year , the State Minister for Minerals, Mr Peter Lokeris, told Parliament that fuel prices would normalise mid-February but instead, they have continued to surge.

Compiled by Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Simon P Emwamu Fred Wambede  Amos Ngwomoya, Alex Ashaba, Wilson Kutamba , Longino Muhindo, Ronald Kabanza, Felix W Okello, Robert Elema, Scovin Iceta, Milton Bandiho, Sheillar Mutetsi, Julius Byamukama, Felix Ainebyoona , Charity Akullo , Robert Muhereza, Leonard Mbishinzimana,  Emmanuel Arineitwe , Brian A Kesiime , Richard Kyanjo Joseph Omollo & Abubaker Kirunda

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