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March fuel sales surge past 2019 level on economic rebound, stocking

NEW DELHI: India’s petrol and diesel sales in March shot well past the per-pandemic levels by 14% and 5%, respectively, on the back of a strong economic rebound and stocking by consumers, dealers and farmers in anticipation of upward revision in prices after assembly polls in five states that concluded on March 7.
Jet fuel sales rose sharply to 72% of the pre-pandemic period as airlines increased the number of flights on higher demand following lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions, official data shows.
The growth in fuel sales is the sharpest in three months. Compared to March 2021, petrol sales were higher by 8.7%, diesel 10% and jet fuel almost 10%.
LPG sales also posted 12% growth over March 2019 and March 2021. The fuel, commonly used for cooking by households and eateries, had remained positive through the pandemic, except for a minor decline a few times.
There is no denying that a strong economic rebound and resumption of normal business activities led to the sharp increase in fuel sales. This is borne by the uptick in diesel sales, a key indicator of growth as it is used by transport, farm and infrastructure construction sectors.
But stocking by dealers, farmers and panic buying by normal consumers before the state-run fuel retailers, which control 90% of the market, began raising prices from March 22 undoubtedly contributed to higher sales.
Going by past experience, people expected pump price revisions to resume immediately after the polls as India’s crude cost had risen from $84/barrel to above $100.
The prices had been frozen for 137 days since November 4 last year under an informal government diktat. But the government did not want to give out the signal that the freeze to give the ruling party an edge in the hustings and allowed it after 11 days of the results and decisions related to government formation in poll states were taken.




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