New Delhi: The oil sector seems to be latest addition to the list of sectors facing stress due to the ongoing economic slowdown. For the first time in many months, both oil demand and imports have witnessed a sharp fall indicating that the poor health of the economy has now begun impacting a sector where the country has to rely a lot on imports.
As per the latest Oil Ministry data, crude oil imports decreased by 13.4 per cent and 2.2 per cent during June 2019 and April-June 2019 respectively as compared to the same period of the previous year. During the first quarter as well, the country’s oil demand was lower by 0.2 per cent than that a year ago with the fall sharper in June at 1.7 per cent.
Though the slowdown in oil imports in a country that spends its foreign exchange to buy crude oil should be welcomed, yet it is reflective of the poor demand scenario that has slowed oil imports by refineries.
The refineries are using their inventories to meet domestic supplies of petroleum products rather than buying additional quantities of crude oil from overseas even though buying at this juncture would be beneficial with international crude prices at a low of $64-65 a barrel.
“It is surprising that oil imports have fallen when global prices are stable and low. This means that consumption has declined and demand is not picking up. The sector has begun to feel the pain of an economic slowdown that several of the consuming industries such as automobiles are already facing,” said an executive of Indian Oil Corporation asking not to be named.
Though it is difficult to derive a conclusive relationship between oil imports/sales and economic activity, analysts are unanimous that the current contraction is the result of a slowdown. (IANS)