India has been spreading around its energy basket to address the volatility in the Gulf region. Photo: iStock
Indian gas stations have seen a dramatic fall in demand since the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed. Photo: iStock

The deadly Covid-19 second wave in India and localized lockdowns across various parts of the country has hit gasoline and diesel sales in April.

Bharat Petroleum Corporation Director Arun Singh said that overall fuel demand in April was down by about 7% from the pre-Covid level of April 2019. Significantly, India was in the middle of a severe countrywide lockdown in April 2020, which drove fuel sales down 50%.

The sale of gasoline used in cars and motorcycles fell to 2.14 million tonnes in April, according to preliminary data compiled by state-owned fuel retailers. This is the lowest level since August last year, 6.3% lower than March this year and 4.1% lower than April 2019.

Gasoline sales in April 2020 were a mere 872,000 tonnes on account of countrywide lockdown.

Demand for diesel, mainly used by public transport providers, farm vehicles and industry fell to 5.9 million tonnes in April 2021, down 1.7% from the preceding month and 9.9% from April 2019. Diesel sales in April 2020 were 2.84 million tonnes.

Aviation turbine fuel sales have also taken a hit as airlines are operating at a lower capacity due to the Covid crisis. For the month of April, sales were 377,000 tonnes, down 11.5% from the preceding month and a whopping 39.1% lower than April 2019. In April last year sales were a mere 5,500 tonnes as India had banned all passenger flights to contain the coronavirus.

Market experts say demand is likely to weaken further in May due to more impending social distancing restrictions as India records record levels of daily infections. This is also expected to bring down the crude intake of refiners.

Meanwhile, gasoline and diesel prices are expected to rise around 2-3 Indian rupees. Oil companies had kept the prices on hold since February 27 in the run-up to assembly elections in four states and one union territory.

With the elections’ results announced on Sunday, these companies may now start increasing the prices in phases. Oil companies are reportedly making losses of 3 rupees and 2 rupees on the sale of gasoline and diesel, respectively, due to a rise in global crude prices, Indo-Asian News Service reports.

India is now facing its worst health crisis since Independence. It recently became the first country in the world to record over 400,000 new Covid-19 cases in a day and hospitals across the country have been overwhelmed due to a lack of beds, medicines and oxygen. The official death toll after the pandemic began last March has crossed 215,000.

Local governments in Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and other states have imposed weekend curfews and other measures to contain the spread of the virus. The second wave is reportedly being driven by various mutant strains of Covid-19 virus and they are far more contagious than the earlier ones.

Fuel sales are but one of many rising casualties to India’s public health and economy.