Indicating that the national economy is looking up again, India’s petrol sales in the first fortnight of July shot past the pre-virus level for the first time since the lockdown in 2020 as the country got back to business after a second Covid wave and lifting of travel curbs prompted people to hit the highways in search of cooler climes.
According to provisional data, state-run fuel retailers, who control 90% of the market, sold 3.4% more petrol than in the same period of 2019. Compared to the same period of last year, the sales were 18% higher. On a monthly basis, consumption was 14% more than in June.
Consumption of diesel, an indicator of economic activity, was down about 11% from the same period of 2019. Compared to last year, however, the sales were up 13%. On a monthly basis, sales appeared to be losing steam, remaining nearly the same as June as the monsoon reduced demand from the farm and construction sectors.
Last month, petrol consumption had posted a monthly growth of nearly 30% and diesel more than 18% to reach 90% and 81%, respectively, of the pre-pandemic period.
Jet fuel consumption in the first half of this month was down 56% from the same period of 2019. But compared to last year, sales were more than 20% higher. In an encouraging sign, the current consumption marked a 19% growth over June, mostly on holiday travel.
Consumption of LPG, or household cooking gas supplied in cylinders, was nearly 5% lower than 2019 but marked more than 2% growth over last year. On a monthly basis also, growth was tepid at about 1%. This is not surprising since cooking in summer requires lesser fuel than in winter, when households also use it to heat water.
The government expects demand to be back to the pre-pandemic level by the end of this year. “There are signs of demand resurgence… We are confident by the end of the year, we will be in a very robust position to restore our original consumption behaviour,” former oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan had told an industry function on 1 July, a week before he moved to the education ministry.