Dealers want duty waived for oxygen cylinders
Amid calls for Pakistan to prepare ahead of an India-like Covid-19 crisis, oxygen dealers want the government to waive duties on the import of oxygen cylinders temporarily so that there are enough.
“There’s no immediate shortage but yes demand is slightly increasing,” said oxygen gas dealer Omair Iftikhar. “However, what I see is that there are limited cylinders with the dealers.”
He said that if coronavirus cases increase, they may have enough oxygen but there would be a shortage of cylinders. “Dealers were not importing because there’s a Rs1.5 million duty on one container,” he explained. “If the government removes that duty even temporarily, dealers would import and there would be enough stock if the need arises.”
He added that if the government allows only ten duty-free containers of cylinders to be imported, there would be enough. He thinks 4,000 new cylinders would suffice.
“It will take a month for cylinders to arrive in Pakistan after importers place an order. The government must remove the duty and dealers must place an order as soon as possible,” he said.
Another oxygen gas dealer in Karachi Mohammad Usman said that the situation was stable at the moment and there was no stress on the supply system, as far as he could see.
“We hope there will be no need to do anything. There are no issues at the moment related to the oxygen supply. But yes, our counterparts in Lahore and Islamabad are raising alarm bells,” he said.
The price of 55cft, 120cft and 240cft empty cylinders are Rs10,000, Rs15,000 and Rs23,000, respectively while they are filled at Rs400, Rs1,200 and Rs1,800.
According to SAMAA TV’s reporter in Lahore, oxygen consumption in eight government hospitals increased 35% in just one week. At Mayo Hospital, a 66% increase in daily oxygen consumption was recorded.
The chief coordinator for Covid in Punjab Dr. Asad Aslam said that oxygen use had doubled in just one week. He added that there was no interruption in the supply of cylinders to hospitals.
International Industrial Gases Director Sarfaraz Khan said that he did not think there was any immediate worry either.
“But power outages can be a huge problem,” he added. “An hour of electricity outage means around 10 hours of a halt in gas production. It’s not as if you push a button and the production of gas immediately begins again when the electricity supply is restored.”
He added that there were around 13 manufacturers in the country with 600,000 tons of annual production.
“It’s enough for our needs and hopefully there will be no crisis.”