Petrol hike causes exodus – Motorists flock to Ayamonte

Recent increases in petrol prices are running counter to the trend across the border. On average, prices at the pumps in Portugal are now rising by two cêntimos a week. Indeed, on the very same day that prices fell in Spain, in Portugal petrol prices rose. It has now been estimated that filling up your tank in Spain could save motorists up to 12 euros a tank.

“When I said that a litre of gasoline might reach 220/250 escudos, people said I was irresponsible. But the truth is that it has already reached 220 escudos. Since January the price of fuel has risen 13 times,” says António Saleiro, the President of the National Association of Petrol Dealers (ANAREC).

On average, petrol costs around 20 cents a litre less in Spain – a saving of 125 euros on 60 litres of petrol. The message has clearly hit home with consumers. A Spanish attendant at the Galp petrol station in the Andalusian town of Ayamonte just across the border reports there are not enough workers to manage growing demand. “On a weekend, this place is really crazy. We have already had to bring in another member of staff but, this summer, we will have to acquire even more manpower.” The pump attendant said he has never known queues to be so long. “On Saturdays and Sundays in the afternoon Portuguese motorists form a large queue and, in terms of numbers, they far exceed the Spanish clients,” he reports.

The Resident reporter, Gabriel Hershman, interviewed a number of motorists to gauge their reactions towards Portuguese petrol prices. But first we spoke to José Morais, manager of the GALP service station in Lagoa, where a litre of unleaded 98 currently sets you back 1.148 euros. Morais told The Resident that he believed many people went to Spain to get petrol. “Here in Portugal taxes are so much higher. They account for 70 per cent of the cost of fuel, whereas in Spain taxes only account for 30 or 40 per cent of the overall price. The Economy Ministry has to do more for consumers and the only way is to reduce taxes.”

Motorist Manuel Tavares also blamed the government: “Prices are very high. We have a very wealthy political class in Portugal and taxes are very high in general.”

Pablo ‘Diablo’ – on holiday in the Algarve from Santa Barbara in California – said he found it difficult to compare prices. “Everything’s in litres, whereas I’m used to gallons. At the moment on the West Coast we’re running at two to three dollars a gallon, so I would say it’s neck and neck with here. Maybe it’s slightly more here.”

Richard Van Baar from the Netherlands told me: “It’s cheaper here than in Holland – 20 cents cheaper I’d say. But last week I was in Seville and the petrol was only 95 or 96 cents a litre, in other words 18 cents cheaper.”

Martin Brown, an Englishman living in Germany, said: “Prices are pretty similar to those of Germany. I drive a diesel car and that’s gone up to one euro per litre, but normal unleaded is about the same. They don’t actually sell leaded petrol any more in Germany and I’m surprised they do so here – it’s terrible for the environment.”

Thelma Pires summed up the general view of Portuguese interviewees when she told The Resident: “Prices are going up all the time and it’s the state’s fault for increasing tax.”