Middle Eastern oil accounted for 71.5% of India’s oil imports in July, its highest share in 26 months, while imports from Africa fell to 5%, the lowest in at least 14 years, data from trade sources showed on Friday.
Analysts said lower fuel demand and paltry refining margins had driven a preference for Middle Eastern sour grades over sweet African barrels. India, the world’s third-biggest oil consumer, imports more than 80% of its oil needs.
“Since April Indian refiners are trying to save every single penny on crude purchases as refining margins are paltry and fuel demand has crashed. They are forced to cut refiners runs,” said Ehsan Ul Haq, an analyst with Refinitiv.
Indian refiners mostly tap spot markets for low sulphur or sweet grades and buy sour grades under term deals with Middle Eastern producers.