The Automobile Association of South Africa says local motorists can expect to benefit from “large” fuel-price cuts at the start of April 2020.

Rand weakness against the dollar “paled into insignificance” against the fuel price bonanza caused by the massive retreat of international petroleum prices, the AA said in a statement commenting on unaudited mid-month fuel price data released by the Central Energy Fund.

This sets the stage for “large reductions in fuel prices at month-end”.

The current data shows petrol will drop by up to R1,11 a litre, diesel by R1,10 and illuminating paraffin by R1,18. However, as the AA points out, these declines must be weighed against the 25-cent increases to the fuel levies announced by the finance minister in February, which come into effect in April.

The outlook based on the current data with the levy adjustments taken into account is for a decrease of up to 86 cents a litre for petrol, and up to 85 cents a litre for diesel. The levies are not applied to paraffin.

"As the spread of the COVID-19 virus accelerates across the globe, world financial markets have plunged, with capital fleeing to safe-haven assets. The rand has been sharply weaker against the dollar on this trend," the AA said in its statement.

"However, this has happened side-by-side with Saudi Arabia's decision to break ranks with OPEC. Not only has Saudi Arabia slashed its crude prices, it has also increased production substantially."

The AA added Saudi Arabia's actions came at a time where global oil demand was in decline as the coronavirus hit manufacturing and commerce, leading to a steep slump in the oil price.

"The last time oil prices dropped this suddenly was in the first Gulf War, almost 30 years ago. However, it means good news at the pumps for South Africans.

The AA said it didn’t believe the declines would end at their current levels.

"There is little indication of what the final picture of COVID-19 spread will be, nor where the rand will stabilise against the dollar. It can also not be predicted how long the Saudis are prepared to hold out in their oil price war, since their oil industry is believed to be able to maintain profitability at substantially lower per-barrel prices than the current level," the AA noted.

The AA concluded by saying it foresaw an “extended period of turmoil”.

"It will take quite some time for the global economy to get back on an even keel after the current ongoing events, and the next two or three months seem set to provide some fuel price relief to hard-pressed motorists," it said.