COVID losses push two petrol stations out of business

COVID losses push two petrol stations out of business

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, April 09, 2020

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AS fewer and fewer motorists fill up at the pump, one gas station in Clarendon and another on the north coast have gone out of business in recent weeks, the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA) is reporting.

JGRA President Gregory Chung says that if the COVID-19 crisis, which has occasioned restriction measures, continues, it is expected that more stations will buckle.

The association, he told the Jamaica Observer, will be seeking audience with Energy Minister Fayval Williams to explore avenues of support for the retail industry going forward.

Chung said petroleum sales volumes have dropped by more than half across the industry as dealers struggle to stay afloat. “It's a painful time for all of us and gas station dealers have seen upwards of 50 per cent decline in their volumes, and they're facing dire consequences. The association is concerned about what's happening,” he said.

He stressed that the restrictions imposed on almost all activities across the society are underpinned by the need to ramp up social distancing, and has urged all Jamaicans to follow the rules laid down by Government, as the sooner the country emerges from the stranglehold of COVID-19, the better.

“The curfew and lockdown are all functions of social distancing and everyone has to play his/her role [as] Government alone cannot do this. The general public is coming out to do businesses, and this is where you have a breakdown of social distancing. [There] are weaknesses in the system right now; we have had reports of taxi operators not maintaining the rule to have three in the back and two in the front. They're still maximising, and these are challenges facing even our employees [who have to take public transportation]. The general public isn't all together on this policy,” he said.

The JGRA, said Chung, has asked retailers to continuously reinforce the importance of social distancing with their staff, and, by extension, their families. “That's the only way it's going to work, if everyone shares the message,” he said.

He said, too, that despite the fall in oil prices on the world market, retailers are not benefiting from lower Petrojam prices on the retail end as the number of motorists pulling up to the pump continue to shrink.

“The price of gas has dropped, but there is no increase in business because the price has gone down. Normally you would see a little uptick in businesses but no one is travelling after eight. There is no confidence right now, and everybody is trying to save whatever little they have and be prepared for eventualities, as has happened in other regions. Any extra money people have now they are setting aside, buying extra groceries and getting prepared for the worst,” he stated.

Chung said retailers are under tremendous stress and have been scrambling to find ways to reduce their overheads, while retaining staff. He said some are negotiating for a reduction in their licence fees, as well as restructuring of financial obligations with various institutions.

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