April 23, 2020 / 3:51 AM / in a month

China's March gasoline exports rise as pandemic cuts domestic demand

BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - China’s gasoline exports in March rose by 8.2% from a year earlier as refineries scrambled to increase sales to overseas markets amid tepid domestic demand from the disruptions of transport and industry caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Gasoline shipments were 1.82 million tonnes last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Thursday. That compares to 1.69 million tonnes in March 2019. Exports were 2.72 million tonnes in January and February combined, customs said.

Customs did not separate out the fuel export data for January and February when they reported it last month.

The export increase occurred even as Chinese state-backed refineries deepened their cuts to crude oil processing rates in March in response to the lukewarm demand, with gasoline output last month dwindling 21% from a year earlier and diesel production falling 9.4%.

Diesel exports climbed to 2.83 million tonnes in March, up from 2.71 million tonnes in the same period last year. The exports were 3.47 million tonnes combined for the first two months of the year.

The easing of some coronavirus curbs on travel and business activities in China helped to bolster fuel consumption in some parts of the country, starting in late February, but the growing macro-economic headwinds and fears of a second wave of virus outbreaks have weighed on the demand recovery of transport fuels.

The novel coronavirus, first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has infected more than 2.5 million people worldwide and spread to more than 210 countries and territories.

China’s jet kerosene exports in March plunged 15.3% from a year earlier to 1.48 million tonnes, customs data showed. The exports were 2.93 million tonnes combined for January and February.

Imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in March rose to 4.19 million tonnes, up 4.3% from the same month last year.

Reporting by Muyu Xu in BEIJING and Chen Aizhu in SINGAPORE; Editing by Tom Hogue and Christian Schmollinger

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