India’s fuel demand in August 2020 saw its biggest decline since April this year, as local lockdowns put brakes on economic activity and transportation, official data showed. Petroleum product sales fell to 14.39 million tonnes last month in August, down by 7.5 per cent over the previous month and about 16 per cent from a year earlier, data from the oil ministry’s Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) showed.
The decline in August 2020 was the sixth consecutive year-on-year slide. Fuel demand had slumped by a record 48.6 per cent in April 2020 to 9.4 million tonnes as the government imposed a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. It recovered in the subsequent two months but has been falling again since July, on a monthly basis.
Sale of diesel, the most consumed fuel in the country, fell 12 per cent to 4.84 million tonnes in August from 5.51 million tonnes in the previous month. On an annual basis, the demand for diesel declined by 20.7 per cent.
Petrol sales fell 7.4 per cent year-on-year to 2.38 million tonnes although it rose 5.3 per cent from 2.26 million tonnes in July as commuters preferred driving to using public transportation.
Naphtha sales at 1.07 million tonnes was down 16 per cent over July demand. It was over 24 per cent lower than the consumption of 1.4 million tonnes in August 2019. Sale of bitumen, used for making roads, rose 39.1 per cent to 3,16,000 tonnes on an annual basis but was down about 18 per cent month-on-month. LPG sales were down five per cent year-on-year to 2.2 million tonnes, while kerosene demand fell 43 per cent to 1,32,000 tonnes.
Industry sources said reaching pre-COVID-19 sales may take at least 3-4 months. There is likely to be a pick-up in demand with the onset of the festive season in October-November but reaching pre-COVID-19 levels would not be before new year, they said. Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had previously stated that sales would return to normal by festival season but the local lockdowns being imposed in several states has prolonged the return to normalcy.