Petrol sales shrink 17.6%, diesel 26% in March as lockdown wipes demand

The only fuel that showed growth was LPG as households rushed to book refills for stocking during the three-week lockdown period

India’s petrol sales shrank by 17.6% and diesel demand tanked nearly 26% in March as the economy froze under the nationwide lockdown announced to check the spread of COVID-19.

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Also, aviation turbine fuel (ATF) sales fell by 31.6% as flights got suspended alongside the shutting of businesses and most vehicular traffic going off-road.

Petrol sales dropped to 1.943 million tonnes in March sold in the same month in 2019, according to provisional industry demand numbers.

Diesel, the most consumed fuel in the country, saw demand contract by 25.9% to 4.982 million tonnes.

Similarly, ATF sales fell to 4,63,000 tonnes.

Also read | No fuel crisis in India; enough stock of petrol, diesel, LPG available to last lockdown: IOC

The only fuel that showed growth was LPG as households rushed to book refills for stocking during the three-week lockdown period.

LPG sales rose 1.9% to 2.286 million tonnes in March.

These are provisional numbers for the three public sector oil marketing companies Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL).

Actual March numbers after including sales by private sector firms would be announced in the next few days.

Pattern to continue in April

Industry officials said the pattern in fuel consumption is likely to continue in April as the lockdown is to last till mid of the month and there are indications that part restrictions will continue even after the lockdown is lifted.

Petrol and diesel sales in April are one-third of what they were a year back, they said adding demand is expected to pick up when the lockdown is lifted and restrictions on public transport lifted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a 21-day lockdown beginning March 25, shutting offices and factories, barring those involved in essential services. Also, flights were suspended, trains stopped plying and vehicles went off the road as most people were asked to stay home to help check the spread of coronavirus.

March will be the first month in two-and-a-half-years when petrol sales would see a negative or degrowth. The fuel had registered an 8.2% growth during the first 11 months of 2019-20 fiscal.

Diesel has seen a 1.1% rise in consumption from April 2019 to February 2020. It had seen sales slip into negative territory in January this year before rising in February.

LPG consumption recorded a de-growth of 4.3% during February and a cumulative growth of 6.2%t in April-February.

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