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SINGAPORE: China’s crude oil imports grew nearly 7% in April from the same month a year earlier, its first rise in three months, although weakening fuel demand due to COVID-19 lockdowns has dampened throughput at Chinese refineries.

The world’s top crude oil buyer imported 43.03 million tonnes last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday, equivalent to 10.5 million barrels per day (bpd). That compares with 9.82 million bpd in April 2021 and 10.06 million bpd in March.

Imports for January-April fell 4.8% versus the same period last year to 170.89 million tonnes, or about 10.4 million bpd. Refinery throughput last month is estimated to have fallen about 6%. A decline of that size has not been seen since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Top refiner Sinopec Corp has said that since the second half of March it has lowered operational rates to about 85% of capacity versus 92.6% earlier in the year, after inventories rose amid COVID-19 curbs. Refined oil product exports were at 3.82 million tonnes for April, down 44% from the same month last year and versus 4.07 million tonnes in March.

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