Asia's crude oil imports from Iran rise to 8-month high in March - data

    * March imports at 1.57 mln bpd, up 36 pct from Feb - data
    * Top Asia buyers rushed for more cargoes amid sanctions
    * Asia's Iran oil imports for 2015-2019

    By Florence Tan
    SINGAPORE, April 30 (Reuters) - Asia's crude oil imports
from Iran rose to the highest in eight months in March as buyers
rushed for more cargoes to take  advantage of waivers to the
sanctions the United States imposed, data from government and
trade sources showed on Thursday.
    Asia's top oil importers China, India, Japan and South Korea
imported a total 1.57 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude
from Iran in March, up 36 percent from the previous month to the
highest since July, the data showed.
    The total import volume for first quarter is 31 percent
lower than the same period a year ago, according to the data.
    Iranian oil exports will reach Japan, South Korea, India and
China in April but only China has Iranian oil arriving in early
May, data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.
    The United States granted eight buyers of Iranian crude
waivers to the crude import sanctions that went into full effect
in November. However, last week Washington it would revoke the
waivers as of May 1. 
    U.S. officials said there are sufficient supplies to replace
Iran's oil with producers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab
Emirates ready to meet additional demand.

    Asian refiners are expected to reach out to producers from
the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for
more supplies while South Korea is set to once again scan the
world for alternative, but more expensive, condensate supplies
and snap up heavy naphtha oil products.
    Consultancy FGE said Iran will still get some
200,000-300,000 bpd of oil smuggled out on land via Iraq,
Pakistan and perhaps Turkey while Chinese trading company Zhuhai
Zhenrong may continue to lift Iranian oil.
    "The new tougher stance from the U.S. implies that exports
will likely be some 300,000-400,000 bpd lower than we previously
expected," FGE said, adding that the loss of these exports makes
the supply and demand balance for oil look more bullish.
    The tables below outline Iran crude imports in bpd by Asia's
biggest buyers for December and the year to date:
 Nation        March 19      March 18    yr/yr pct
 China          541,134       726,050        -25.5
 India          405,000       430,200         -5.9
 Japan          292,648       196,663         48.8
 Korea          334,387       374,097        -10.6
 Total        1,573,169     1,727,010         -8.9
 Nation   Jan-March 2019   Jan-March 2018   yr/yr pct
 China            474,836                         -27.6
 India            313,400                         -40.0
 Japan            142,805                         -26.3
 Korea            230,711                         -27.1
 Total          1,161,752        1,688,690        -31.2
    Sources: METI, China Customs, KNOC, trade, Refinitiv Eikon,

 (Reporting by Florence Tan; editing by Christian Schmollinger)