With soaring gas prices: Kerosene Stoves Overtake Gas Cookers
By Nabiya Vaffoor
With the sudden spike in gas prices, the public has turned to kerosene stoves. The global price of LP gas increased to an unprecedented level of 800 USD per tonne on 1 October 2021. When converted directly to a 12.5kg Cylinder, the cost of the product adds up to Rs 2,021. However, at present, the price of a 12.5kg Litro gas cylinder is set at Rs 1,493, and once the shipping, insurance and other necessary costs are taken into account, the additional cost of manufacturing a 12.5kg LP gas cylinder amounts to Rs 700.
Accordingly, the cost of manufacturing 12.5kg LP gas goes up to Rs 2,800. Accordingly, the State-run Litro Gas Company increased the price of the frequently used 12.5 kg gas cylinder by 84 per cent or Rs 1,257 while Litro’s only competitor Laugfs raised the 12.5 kg gas cylinder price by 51 per cent within the Colombo district to Rs 2,840. Meanwhile, Laugfs Gas Chief Executive, Chaminda Ediriwickreme speaking at a Media briefing attributed reasons for the sudden price hike and said, “To date Litro has paid a dividend of Rs 13.5 billion and also Rs 34 billion in tax to the Government and is now on the verge of bankruptcy. It has no funds to even place the next purchasing order.”
With the price hike, there has suddenly emerged an acute scarcity of kerosene cookers in the Pettah as people are switching to kerosene cookers due to the sudden and colossal price increase of cooking gas, the Pettah United National Association of SelfEmployed Traders President Charles Pradeep said. He claimed that with the rise in gas prices, a large stock of kerosene cookers have been sold in a short span of two days.
“People come to Pettah from various parts of the country to buy kerosene stoves. Recent gas price increase has burdened the people to a great extent and driven them to switch to kerosene stoves as an alternative. The sale of these stoves in Pettah is a clear evidence as to how the price of gas has affected the public as a result, the price of kerosene cookers too has been on the rise from Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000,” Pradeep said. Meanwhile, Ceylon Today wandered around one of the busiest streets in Pettah to see for ourselves how the sudden price hike of gas has impacted the public and turned the tables for kerosene stove vendors.
A 40-year-old shopkeeper of MMS shopping complex, Kiyas said previously they sold a maximum of 10 gas stoves per day but after the gas price hike selling even one of them was rare. However, the kerosene stove vendors’ story is just the opposite. “Before the sudden gas price hike we sold only about five to six kerosene stoves per day. Once the sudden price hike came along, many shops in the bazaar didn’t have any kerosene stove stocks left with them.
Fortunately, for us we had stocks but they were sold in double quick time. The model or brand was of no consequence, the public just paid the price and bought the kerosene stoves that we had in stock with no questions asked. Since last week following the sudden price hike, customers were coming in droves to buy kerosene stoves and we have been selling nearly 20 pieces per day. Many shops had stopped importing them since many were not using them but fortunately, we continued importing kerosene stoves.
Our owner had these in stock though many in the bazaar did not and it turned out to be a great advantage all of a sudden. In the last weeks, we might have sold about 300 kerosene stoves. Even today, 75 per cent of the customers were looking for kerosene stoves but unfortunately we are out of stock and have ordered for a stock from India. The stock of stoves is expected to arrive by next week. We requested customers to return next week to make the purchase,” he added.
Kiyas also said there would be an increase in price when the new stock arrives. “A kerosene stove used to cost around Rs 2,800 before COVID-19 and then stocks which were imported during these two years were stuck in the harbour and the clearance charges increased. Shop keepers then decided to sell them at Rs 4,900.
However, the owner said the new stock would definitely cost more as the product in India has gone up by Indian rupees hundred which translated to a Rs 300 rise in local currency with the Customs clearance, tax and other charges the next stock will cost about Rs 5,500 for each stove,” he added. Dharshani from Jaffna who has travelled all the way long from Gampaha to purchase a kerosene stove was disappointed and said the sudden price hike of all products has affected the public. “We always had a kerosene stove at home but we did not use it for a long time.
All of a sudden when gas prices rose we thought of switching to the kerosene cooker as gas has turned out to be an expensive commodity all of a sudden. We checked our old kerosene stove but found that it had broken and was leaking. That’s why I came all the way to purchase a new stove but they are out of stock. Seems like everyone has switched from gas cookers to kerosene stoves,” she added. Farook, a shopkeeper in the Pettah who has been working there for more than 15 years spoke on behalf of working class individuals.
“I have been working for a few years now. Every year it’s always the prices of products increasing but our salaries are stagnant. Taxes, electricity, water and gas bills are on the rise every month. I don’t understand how the Government expects us to survive in this manner. For all these years in my working life I couldn’t save anything. Now I have been spending the savings that I made since my school days.
It’s pathetic to see how our lives are worsening day by day,” added Farook. Irashaad, owner of Diastar; an electric equipment shop, said this was the first week they have sold the highest amount of electric cookers in the eight years they have been operating in the Pettah. “We have been selling many electric stoves and rice cookers lately this week.
It was unexpected after they lifted the lockdown because sales were pretty low due to the pandemic and people do not want to spend after a lockdown since everyone are going through hardship these days. But with gas price hike people may have become alert about the shortage and expecting the worst if they ran out of gas all of a sudden. It’s not affordable to purchase a cooker all of a sudden and thus maybe preparing for an eventuality. Many turn up at the shop looking for kerosene stoves but we do not sell them here.
Rice cookers sales rise
However, we sold three or four rice cookers per day but now it has increased to eight per day. A 2kg rice cooker costs about Rs 4,200 and a 1kg costs about Rs 3,600. We also have gas stoves which cost about Rs 2, 400 before the lockdown but now they cost about Rs 3,500. On a weekly basis we get about 50 customers who purchase gas cookers but now these sales have drastically dropped,” added Irshaad.
Babu who worked in the same shop said even the kerosene stove market will decrease fast since the Government is also attempting to increase the price of fuel and then the price of kerosene oil will eventually increase. Of the many responses, that of the shopkeeper of Zaki Enterprises was optimistic. He said it was not realistic to think that people will turn up and purchase items after a lockdown.
“We weren’t expecting such a crowd but it’s heartbreaking to see sometimes people straight away turning up here after visiting a pawn shop, because they now come only to purchase essentials. Our sales haven’t dropped because we are not a retail shop. We sell our stock on a wholesale basis and weekly orders from customers have continued. Obviously the products they want have changed of late.
Earlier the demand was higher for gas cookers now it’s for electric and kerosene stoves. We did not import any kerosene stoves earlier as there was no great demand for them, had we imported we could have made a mint. We have been delivering gas stoves to some places. There’s a slight reduction but it’s not that significant,” he added. Abdul Hasan who has been in the Pettah selling gas, kerosene and electric stove spare parts for more than 25 years said even spare parts of kerosene stoves began selling all of a sudden, since everyone has begun to repair their old kerosene stoves which lay in hibernation.
“However, there is a decrease in the sale of gas cooker spare parts these days, though it’s not a significant drop but there is a tangible drop in the market,” he added. Any type of sudden price hike is detrimental to the public. As for consumers, their real disposable income and consequently their spending capacity are significantly affected by the change in prices. No matter which political party is in power the prices of essentials have escalated day by day, they lament.
The lives of low income and middle income groups have taken a turn for the worse because of the rising trend of prices of essentials. Consumers are either bound to cut expenditure or borrow money to manage expenditure. But with the sudden price hike of essentials, the public has been pushed to a critical juncture to question whether cost cutting to save a penny as a matter of habit or to survive another day as they have no choice in the matter! Pix by Kelum Chamara