Street-side petrol sellers cling on as station numbers increase

Street-side petrol sellers were a common sight before 2010, when there were relatively few official petrol stations, all run by a government monopoly.

The introduction of private fuel stations brought the number of stations from 260 in 2010 to over 1000 now, reducing the need for roadside fuel vendors as it became easier for drivers to find a station to fill up.

While the practice of selling fuel from bottles or drums is common in rural areas and in areas catering to motorbikes, it is becoming a rare sight in urban Yangon, as car owners prefer fuel stations. Nonetheless, a few urban fuel sellers cling on to business, making sales to owners of generators and the odd errant motorbike driver that braves the downtown ban.

“Cars previously filled up from my shop, but now only a few do,” said a shop owner in South Dagon township. “Most of my customers are motorcycle drivers. They still fill up at my shop.”

Motorbikes are banned from Yangon’s urban townships, though a number skirt the rules and are still on the road, particularly in the city’s outskirts. Roadside fuel shops note their business generally by placing a bottle of fuel near the roadside, with most of the rest of the supply set back from the road.

A South Dagon township businessperson said that he also sells to generator owners, though this business may dry up as electricity improves.

Fuel from bottles or roadside barrels is more expensive than from petrol stations. Ko Si Thu, who works in Hlaing Tharyar township, said people only visit roadside shops due to convenience. “This price isn’t cheap, but we don’t want to go to petrol stations that are far away, so we buy locally,” he said.

The owners of the roadside petrol shops say they are largely supplied by grey-market businesses which cart the fuel to them directly, rather than needing to travel to a supplier.

With roadside sales slipping, some vendors have branched into other businesses, hoping to reap the benefit of diversification. One businessperson in Hlaing Tharyar township near Shwe Nyaung Pin bus stop said his custom has improved since he also started selling betel at his shop.

“I’m doing well because I have two product lines,” said the businessperson. “If one of the products is not doing well, the other will be fine.”

“Our township still has motorbikes, so business hasn’t declined,” he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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