Fuel demand in COVID-hit India plunges in May - data

3 minute read
  • Gasoline, diesel sales fall about 20% in H1 May vs H1 April
  • Jet fuel consumption down by nearly 38%

NEW DELHI, May 17 (Reuters) - Domestic sales of gasoline and diesel by Indian state refiners plunged by a fifth in the first half of May from a month earlier as lockdowns to curb coronavirus infections hit industrial activities and consumption, preliminary data showed on Monday.

Gasoline and diesel sales over May 1-15 fell by about 20%, while jet fuel consumption slumped by nearly 38%, versus April 1-15 levels, the data compiled by the state refiners showed.

"Trucking activity is almost half of what it used to be in normal times," SP Singh, senior fellow at Indian Foundation of Transport Research & Training, said.

"Most of the business that they were getting from small and medium business has been hit due to lockdowns," Singh said, adding only a fraction of 5.5 million trucks is currently running on roads due to lockdowns.

Indian fuel demand had recovered to near pre-COVID levels in March but has been declining since April given restrictions amid a staggering spike in infections to record highs.

India on Monday reported 281,386 new coronavirus infections over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose by 4,106. The South Asian nation's total case load is 24.97 million with the death toll at 274,390, health ministry data showed. read more

Federal health officials have warned against any complacency over a "plateauing" in the rise of infections and urged states to strengthen their medical insfrastructure and workforce.

India's demand for transportation fuels are expected to witness a sharper slump in May due to more impending restrictions, analysts say.

Due to a decline in local fuel sales, Indian refiners have started cutting crude processing and imports. read more

State companies - Indian Oil Corp (IOC.NS), Hindustan Petroleum Corp (HPCL.NS) and Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL.NS) - own about 90% of India's retail fuel outlets.

Domestic fuel sales by state retailers over May 1-15, however, were higher versus a year earlier when there was a nation-wide lockdown.

Below is a table of India' preliminary fuel sales data with volumes in thousand tonnes.

Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Florence Tan and Himani Sarkar

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