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NEW DELHI: OPEC’s share of India’s oil imports fell to the lowest in at least two decades in the year to the end of March as overall purchases by Asia’s third largest economy fell to a six-year low, data obtained from industry and trade sources showed.

Total crude imports by the world’s third-biggest oil importer fell to 3.97 million barrels per day (bpd) in the 2021 fiscal year to March 31, down 11.8percent from a year earlier, the data showed.

India bought more US and Canadian oil at the expense of that from Africa and the Middle East, reducing purchases from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to around 2.86 million barrels per day and squeezing the group’s share of imports to 72percent from around 80percent previously.

That is the lowest share since at least the 2001/02 fiscal year, before which crude import data is not available.

India’s refiners are diversifying purchases to boost margins, having upgraded plants to process cheaper tougher crude grades, but refinery runs were hit as the pandemic curbed fuel consumption.

The country’s annual fuel demand in 2020/21 fell for the for the first time in at least 23 years, according to government data released last month, hitting its lowest since 2016/2017.

The share of Middle East producers rose to about 62percent in the 2020/21 year from 60percent in the previous year as refiners took committed volumes under annual oil contracts, the data showed.

US and Canadian oil accounted for about 7percent and 1.3percent respectively of India’s imports compared to 4.5percent and 0.60percent a year earlier.

The United States emerged as the fifth biggest supplier to India, up two places from the 2019/20 year.

Iraq remained India’s top oil supplier followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Nigeria replaced Venezuela as the fourth biggest supplier. In March, India imported 4.39 million bpd, 12 percent more than in February as refineries ramped up output, the data showed. However that was still a drop of around 0.5percent from March 2020.

Iraq was the top supplier for the month, followed by Saudi Arabia, which pushed the U.S into fourth place behind the United Arab Emirates.