NEW DELHI: India’s diesel and petrol consumption posted a whopping growth of more than 27% in March from a year ago when a countrywide lockdown had washed out fuel demand by 70%.
But a more realistic comparison with March 2019 shows demand for diesel, a bellwether for economic activities, still falling short by nearly 5%. But petrol sales showed a growth of 5% as people’s preference for personal vehicles to get around continued.
Market data for March shows diesel sales of state-run retailers, which dominate 90% of the market, at 128% of a year-ago period and petrol sales at 127%.
Diesel consumption had posted a year-on-year growth of over 7% and petrol 5% in the first fortnight of March, clearly indicating a recovery in demand to the pre-pandemic level. A comparison of the full month’s data with March 2019 bears this out.
Jet fuel sales also posted handsome gains, trailing a march 2020 level by just a little over 4%. A comparison with March 2019, sales are still 35.6% lower. But even this can be considered as a positive sign as sales were down more than 36% from a year ago in February.
Demand for LPG, or household cooking gas, edged 1.3% in March from a year ago, while showing only marginal growth over the same month of 2019. LPG demand had posted sustained growth through the lockdown period as families remained confined within their homes, leading to more cooking.
The fall in LPG consumption can be explained by the sharp increase in price since December totalling Rs 175 per cylinder. The state-run retailers cut the price by Rs 10 per cylinder Wednesday, the first reduction in four months.