The fuel price is set for a steep hike at the beginning of next year, the Automobile Association of SA (AA) has said. “International petroleum prices have eased slightly so far in December,” spokesman Graeme Scala said today in a statement. “Possible relief may come from the exchange rate, which was averaging around R10.20 to the US dollar at the beginning of the month, but has been in decline since then, with a daily spike to R10.50 on December 6.” The AA had reviewed preliminary data issued by the Central Energy Fund for the first half of December. “The average exchange rate has continued to creep up to the R10.30 mark, which has translated into across-the-board under-recoveries in the fuel price,” said Scala. “Using current data, diesel is showing a [possible] 31c per litre increase, with petrol between 31 and 33c a litre dependent on grade.” Illuminating paraffin at the moment was showing a 39c a litre increase. “Unless there is a substantial turnaround in the exchange rate before the end of December, South African motorists will have to brace themselves for more pain at the pumps,” Scala said.