Asian imports of Iranian oil hit 14-month low

Reuters – Imports of Iranian crude by major buyers in Asia fell for a second month in a row to a 14-month low in June, weighed down by sluggish purchases by China and Japan. It is the first time that import volumes of Iranian crude by Asia’s four main buyers have fallen for two straight months since Western sanctions against Tehran were lifted in January last year, leading to a spike in shipments.

China, India, South Korea and Japan together imported 1.46 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, down 15.2 percent on a year ago and the lowest amount since 1.32 million bpd in April last year, government and ship-tracking data showed.

The fall comes as Iran aims to raise oil output to around 4million barrels per day by the end of the year from around 3.8million bpd in recent months, and increases shipments to Europe.

For the first six months of 2017, purchases by Asia’s main buyers were still up 21 percent on a year ago at 1.71 mln bpd. Iran was exempted from an agreement by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce output by 1.2million bpd, a victory for Tehran which has argued it needs to regain the market share it lost under Western sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme. The latest data showed India’s imports of Iranian crude rose more than 30 percent in the first three months of India’s financial year in April-June.

Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said in mid-July that India’s state refiners plan to buy less Iranian oil in 2017/18compared with the last fiscal year due to commercial and operational considerations. Japan’s trade ministry on Monday released official data showing its Iranian imports fell for a second straight month last month. NITC, Iran’s leading oil tanker operator, said this monthits shipments to Europe were increasing daily and the company plans to upgrade its fleet to support expansion. The following tables show Asia’s Iran crude imports in bpd for last month and the year to date.

Nation Jun-17 Jun-16 yr/yr pct
China 516,119 780,175 -33.8
India 495,900 381,500 30.0
Japan 134,831 275,233 -51.0
Korea 310,167 280,600 10.5
Total 1,457,017 1,717,508 -15.2

Nation Jan-June 2017 Jan-June 2016 yr/yr pct
China 586,576 600,608 -2.3
India 539,500 341,900 57.8
Japan 166,652 205,871 -19.1
Korea 421,972 264,852 59.3
Total 1,714,700 1,413,231 21.3

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Richard Pullin)