India’s fuel demand recovery gathered momentum in May as easing of lockdown restrictions helped nearly double the sales when compared with the previous month, according to preliminary data available from state-owned fuel retailers.
The demand is set to rise further as more curbs on transport and industrial activities have been lifted in the fifth phase of the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus. Lockdown 5.0 begins from June 1.
Petrol sales in May declined by 36.5 per cent to 1.59 million tonne as compared to the year-ago period, but were up from 9,73,000 tonne sold in April. In April, petrol sales declined 61 per cent.
Diesel sales fell by 31 per cent to 4.81 million tonne in May from a year earlier. In April, they had fallen by 56.5 per cent at 3.25 million tonne.
With most airlines grounded, jet fuel (ATF) sales fell 85 per cent to 9,600 tonne in May.
The only fuel that showed growth was LPG as the government dole of free cooking gas cylinders to poor households fired up consumption by 13 per cent to 2.3 million tonne from the year-ago period, the data showed.
LPG sales had risen by 12 per cent to 2.13 million tonne in April.
The data pertains to sales by only public sector oil companies and industry numbers are expected to be released only next week.
Fuel demand had evaporated as the lockdown imposed with effect from March 25 set most vehicles off the road, suspended flights, stopped rail movement and shut factories.
As restrictions were eased in subsequent phases, the demand came back.
The government had on Saturday announced a phased lifting of the nationwide lockdown by allowing malls, restaurants, and places of worship to open from June 8 in an attempt to revive an economy ravaged by the world’s toughest restrictions to curb COVID-19.
The stringent lockdown rules will be extended till June 30 in areas that have a large number of active cases. While some domestic flights started operations from May 25, resumption of international air travel is planned only in the final phase.
India has been easing the lockdown curbs since April 20 with its economy likely headed for a first full-year contraction in more than four decades. Gross domestic product expanded 3.1 per cent in the three months to March, the slowest quarterly growth rate since the global financial meltdown in 2008-09.
The easing of restrictions came amid India registering the biggest single-day spike of 8,392 COVID-19 cases. Total cases have now risen to over 1.9 lakh with 5,394 deaths.
India is the seventh worst-hit nation by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
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