By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Minister of Mines and Energy, Erkki Nghimtina, has warned consumers to brace for tough times ahead as they will at some point have to dig deep yet again into their pockets to pay for fuel. He said Namibia, being a country that does not produce or refine oil, is at the mercy of oil producing countries and has no control over such fuel prices. The prices of petrol and diesel increased on April 19 by 12 cents per liter for petrol and 21 cents per liter for diesel to bring pump prices at Walvis Bay to the current N$5.37 per liter for lead replacement petrol, N$5.39 per liter for unleaded petrol and N$5.30 for diesel. Nghimtina said in a statement yesterday that although the ministry wants to keep the prices to a bare minimum considering its huge impact on the economy, it will harmonise fuel prices with neighboring countries “to be fair in respect of pricing mechanisms used”. This month, South Africa increased petrol prices by 39 cents per liter, which brought the prices of unleaded petrol and lead replacement petrol from N$5.73 and N$5.61 to N$6.12 and N$6.00 respectively. Diesel was increased by 27 cents per liter. Energy prices have soared to an all time high due to the volatility in the oil producing countries of Iraq and Nigeria. While Iraq faces faltering production because the industry is suffering from the effects of ongoing sabotage and decades of neglect and a loss of more than 0.5 million barrels per day, Nigeria’s output due to unrest in the Niger Delta has not been counter-balanced by higher production from other member countries. Namibia has lower fuel prices than neighbouring South Africa, from which it imports most of her fuel. At the current prices, Namibia charges 10 percent, 8.3 percent and 4.2 percent lower for unleaded petrol, lead replacement petrol and diesel than South Africa. This, said Nghimtina, makes the Namibian consumer better off, which means that the “Minister of Mines and Energy as the custodian of setting fuel prices in Namibia has the responsibility to cope with all the international crude oil prices changes, the Namibia dollar/US dollar exchange rate fluctuations and also pressure for internal increases on fuel price elements”. Fuel prices in Namibia have increased two times this year already, in January and April.