Venezuela's March oil exports, imports fell amid sanctions, low demand

April 2 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s oil exports and imports fell sharply in March amid tightening U.S. sanctions and a global demand contraction that has left distressed cargoes around the world, according to data from the state-run firm and Refinitiv Eikon.

State-run oil producer PDVSA and its joint ventures exported 799,323 barrels per day (bpd) of crude and fuel last month, a 26% fall versus February and the second- lowest average since sanctions were first imposed over a year ago.

Venezuela’s fuel imports also plummeted by half, with 84,000 bpd discharged last month versus 165,000-175,000 bpd in the first two months.

Over a dozen large tankers loaded with Venezuelan oil are waiting in Asia for final buyers to take them, according to Refinitiv Eikon data, amid a global glut of crude that knocked prices down to half in March.

(For a graphic on monthly oil exports, click here:

Low imports and limited domestic refining are adding new strains on Venezuelans facing mandatory lockdowns and shortages of basic products as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.

As Venezuela’s crude exports and fuel imports are almost entirely dependent on oil swaps, the recent loss of trade partners Rosneft Trading and TNK Trading due to sanctions has limited the oil the OPEC-member nation is able to sell, and fuel it receives in exchange.

In March, no cargoes of Venezuelan oil were taken by Rosneft after at least two large tankers chartered by the firm left Venezuelan waters without loading. The departures preceded the disclosure of Rosneft’s sale of assets in the country to an entity controlled by the Russian government.

Last August, PDVSA lost another key customer, China’s CNPC , and in October its supply contract with European refiner Nynas AB also was terminated due to sanctions.

The largest recipients of PDVSA’s oil are now Mexican firms Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group, which in March took some 262,000 bpd combined for resale to buyers in Asia, now the largest market for Venezuelan crude with 70% of last month’s total exports.

Cuba’s state-run Cubametales received 105,000 bpd of Venezuelan crude and fuel, according to the data, the highest average since October.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga; editing by Gary McWilliams and Dan Grebler