According to the preliminary data of state-owned fuel retailers, the second wave of coronavirus sweeping the nation has pummelled fuel sales in April as local restrictions clamped to curb the spread of inflection stifled demand.
"At the end of April, overall fuel demand is down by about 7 per cent from pre-Covid level of April 2019," said Arun Singh, director for marketing and refineries at Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL).
"We were near pre-Covid level in March 2021, but new restrictions due to the second COVID-19 wave has temporarily reduced demand, equivalent to about 10 per cent of March 2021 demand for both personal mobility and industrial goods movement," Singh added. "Local fuel consumption will start to look up in June when second pandemic wave is expected to weaken."
India was under one of the world's severest lockdowns in April 2020, bringing to a halt almost all economic activity. Fuel sales had halved during that month and hence sales of current month cannot be compared with that of April 2020.
"Sales of petrol -- used in cars and motorcycles -- fell to 2.14 million tonnes in April, the lowest since August. Petrol sales in April were 6.3 per cent lower than March 2021 and 4.1 per cent lower than April 2019. Petrol sales in April 2020 were 872,000 tonnes," the data showed.
Demand for diesel -- the most used fuel in the country -- fell to 5.9 million tonnes in April 2021, down 1.7 per cent from the previous month and 9.9 per cent from April 2019. Diesel sales in April 2020 were 2.84 million tonnes.
With airlines continuing to operate at less than capacity, jet fuel (ATF) sales in April were at 3,77,000 tonnes, down 11.5 per cent over March 2021 and 39.1 per cent over April 2019. Jet fuel sales in April 2020 were 5,500 tonnes.
Sales volume of cooking gas LPG fell 3.3 per cent to 2.1 million tonnes in April 2021 when compared with the previous month. The sales were 11.6 per cent higher than 1.88 million tonnes in April 2019.
Indian authorities are scrambling for vaccines, medicines, and oxygen as the nation faces its worst health crisis. The number of daily coronavirus cases slipped slightly, a day after Indian became the first country in the world to cross the 4-lakh mark. The country reported 3,92,488 new COVID-19 cases and 3,689 deaths because of infection in the preceding 24 hours as of Sunday morning. The total case load now stands at 1.95 crore with 2,15,542 deaths.
Fuels sales could have been worse in April but for the elections in some states that saw increased use of vehicles for campaigning.
Demand is likely to witness a sharper slump in May due to more impending restrictions. Declining fuel sales will reduce crude intake by refiners, reducing operating run rate.
(With inputs from PTI)