(Reuters) – India’s oil imports in March rose from the previous month, helped by increased economic activity, which could be hit again by renewed restrictions on the world’s third largest crude oil importer.
Crude oil imports rose 7.3% from February to 18.26 million tonnes, data from the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Group (PPAC) website showed, although imports were still down about 6.5% year on year.
Louise Dixon, oil analyst at Rystad Energy, said the slight year-on-year import decline in March could be attributed to higher oil prices.
“It takes more than 12 months for oil demand to recover in India to reach pre-pandemic levels,” she said.
Looking ahead, preliminary data showed that local fuel sales by Indian refineries declined in April due to state-level restrictions aimed at curbing a rampant second wave of coronavirus infections.
India’s annual crude oil imports fell nearly 13% in fiscal 2020/21 to 198.11 million tonnes, the lowest in six years as refiners cut refining as COVID-19 wiped out fuel demand, data show. collected by Reuters.
K. Ravichandran, Deputy Chief Ratings Officer of ICRA, said that imports in 2021/22 could reach the level of the previous year or, in the worst case, could see a slight decline.
Imports of refined products in March rose by about 8.8% to 4.10 million tons on an annualized basis, while exports rose 2.5% to 6.08 million tons.
Diesel fuel exports in March were up 45.5% month-on-month and 3.7% year-on-year.
Asia’s third largest economy imports and exports refined fuels as it has excess refining capacity.
Reporting by Sumita Layek and Bridgesh Patel in Bangalore; Additional Report by Bharat Govind Gautam; Editing by Louise Havens and Edmund Blair