BUDAPEST, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Hungarian oil and gas group MOL (MOLB.BU) said on Monday it faced a partial shortage of fuel stocks across almost its entire network of filling stations over the weekend as many people started stockpiling.
In an emailed reply to Reuters' questions, MOL said the primary cause of the fuel shortage was a lack of imports. Foreign players have cut their fuel shipments to Hungary since the government capped petrol and diesel prices last year.
A Reuters photographer found that some petrol stations in Budapest had run out of fuel, while others still offered several types of gasoline.
MOL also said its experts have been working non-stop on the maintenance of the Danube refinery, which is currently operating at 50-55% capacity, to get the plant running at full strength again.
"At the weekend, we saw fuel purchases increasing by more than one and a half relative to a normal market situation," MOL said. "Panic buying started and many are stockpiling, which led to a partial shortage of stocks across almost our entire network of filling stations."
Late last month MOL said it was temporarily curbing fuel deliveries to some retailers in Hungary as oil supplies from Russia fell below normal levels on the Druzhba pipeline.
Maintenance at its main Danube refinery had caused a drop in capacity, affecting all of MOL's products.
The government a year ago capped the price of petrol and diesel at 480 forints ($1.22) per litre, which now applies to drivers of privately owned vehicles, farm vehicles and taxis.
MOL has called for an end to the price caps, which have caused foreign players to cut their imports into Hungary.
The cap is due to expire at the end of December. The government has said it will decide whether to extend the measure based on information from MOL on whether the company is able to ensure supply.
"If conditions arise when there is not enough gasoline and diesel, then we need to take a step," Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said on Nov. 30.
The government did not reply to Reuters' questions on Monday.
($1 = 394.0400 forints)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.