India’s imports in June fell to their lowest in nine months, as refiners curtailed purchases amid higher fuel inventories due to low consumption and renewed coronavirus lockdowns in the previous two months.

India, the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer, shipped in about 3.9 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude last month, about 7% down from May, but 22% higher from year-ago levels, tanker arrival data obtained from trade sources showed.

India is the second major importer in Asia, after China, to post a slump in last month’s crude imports.

After an uptick in India’s fuel demand in February and March, the country’s refiners cranked up crude processing and oil imports, said an Indian refining official who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak to media.

However, fuel demand fell sharply in April and May after the government imposed restrictions to curb a second wave of coronavirus, leaving refiners with high fuel inventories.

“We had enough inventory of refined fuel so there was little scope to raise crude imports,” the source said, adding that the export market was unattractive as profits were low.

India’s crude imports between April and June, however, rose 11.7% year-on-year to 4.1 million bpd as the lockdown curbs were not as severe as last year when COVID-19 first hit the nation, according to the data.

Last month, Iraq stayed as the top oil supplier to India, followed by Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates climbed four notches to emerge as third-biggest supplier while Nigeria rose to No.4 from No.5 in May.

The United States was at No.5, followed by Canada.

The share of oil from the Middle East in India’s imports rose to about 59% in June from 53% in the prior month, while that of other regions declined, data showed.

Source: Hellenic Shipping