India's May crude oil imports dip as pandemic curbs demand

(Reuters) -India’s May crude oil imports slipped to their lowest in three months as fuel demand sagged amid a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that crimped economic activity and mobility, government data showed on Monday.

A worker walks atop a tanker wagon to check the freight level at an oil terminal on the outskirts of Kolkata, India in this November 27, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

However, imports were still 18.2% higher from a year earlier, data on the website of the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) showed.

On a monthly basis, crude oil imports in the world’s third largest oil consumer and importer dropped 5.5% to 17.26 million tonnes from April.

Last month’s decline in imports comes on the heels of data showing fuel consumption slumped in May to its lowest since last August. [nL3N2NR3BG[]

A surge in coronavirus cases and deaths in May forced most states to impose tight restrictions and lockdowns, slowing factory activity growth significantly and hindering mobility.

Oil products’ imports slipped 26.2% to 3.15 million tonnes on an annual basis.

Exports were little changed at 5.74 million tonnes in May. Diesel accounted for a major share of these exports at 2.95 million tonnes, surging 58% from the preceding month.

“Several states were still under lockdown, which led to high gasoline and diesel exports,” said Refinitiv analyst Ehsan Ul Haq, adding that higher fuel prices also limited domestic consumption.

Haq said that given the vaccine rollouts, refiners expected a faster recovery this year when compared to 2020 which was reflected in the year-on-year increase in crude imports.

Asia’s third-biggest economy imports and exports refined fuels as it holds surplus refining capacity.

Reporting by Nakul Iyer in Bengaluru; editing by Louise Heavens and Jonathan Oatis