India’s petrol sales rose 2 per cent in September – the first increase since the country’s lockdown in late March – signalling demand returning to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Diesel sales continue to be below normal but have shown a month-on-month increase, according to provisional data from state-owned fuel retailers who control 90 per cent of the market
Diesel sales continue to be in the negative territory, with demand falling 7 per cent year-on-year.
But the demand was 22 per cent higher over August 2020.
This is the first time that petrol sales in the world’s third-largest oil importer have risen since the March 25 nationwide lockdown crippled economic activity and sent demand plummeting.
Petrol sales rose to 2.2 million tonne in September as compared to 2.16 million tonne in the same month last year and 1.9 million tonne during August 2020.
Demand for diesel, the most consumed fuel in the country, fell to 4.84 million tonne from 5.2 million tonne in September 2019.
Sales were 3.97 million tonne during August this year.
Earlier this week, Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) director (marketing) Arun Kumar Singh had stated that petrol sales were almost at pre-COVID-19 levels but diesel is lagging.
This was because personal mobility was being preferred leading to more private cars on the road.
But in case of diesel, consumption sectors like school buses and public transport were at a very subdued level, he had said.
“As we move along, petrol will come into growth zone in October/November while diesel will be in the rate of (minus) -0-3 per cent range,” he had said.
Industry sources said while the Indian economy has started to pick up with lockdown restrictions being lifted since June, local lockdowns by states have hampered the demand quickly picking up.
The September rise in petrol is a turnaround from the sharp drop witnessed in August.
Diesel and petrol sales have fallen by 21 per cent and 7.4 per cent, respectively in August from a year earlier.
Jet fuel sales at 618,000 tonne was down 54 per cent in September but was 22.5 per cent higher than 235,000 tonne sales in August.
Cooking gas LPG sales were up 5 per cent at 2.28 million tonne year-on-year and 3.5 per cent month-on-month.
Car sales rose 14 per cent in August from a year earlier, while two-wheeler sales increased by 3 per cent.
Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, chairman of Indian Oil Corp (IOC) – the country’s largest fuel retailer, had last month stated that there were signs of demand recovery, but the pandemic’s impact could linger and monthly consumption may edge back to pre-virus levels by the end of the year.
Fuel demand is expected to further rise in October as the festive season kicks in.