Imports of Iranian crude oil by major buyers in Asia tumbled 29 percent in November from the same month a year ago to the lowest volumes since April 2016, government and ship-tracking data showed.
In total, China, India, Japan and South Korea imported 1.36 million barrels per day (bpd) last month from Iran, the data showed. The drop comes after imports hit highs earlier this year and last when Tehran ramped up exports after the lifting of sanctions that had targeted its disputed nuclear programme.
The slowdown had been expected, as oil loadings bound for Asia fell below 1.5 million bpd in October, a person with knowledge of Iran’s tanker schedules had told Reuters.
Tehran is pushing to retain its prized Asian customers, hoping price reductions will boost the appeal of its crude compared with other Middle Eastern grades even as the potential threat of a renewal of U.S. sanctions looms.
China, the biggest buyer, purchased 8.8 percent less oil from Iran year-on-year, taking around 557,900 bpd.
Meanwhile India’s refiners cut Iranian oil imports by more than half in November, ship tracking data showed, squeezing them to a 21-month low in protest at Tehran’s decision to award a giant gas field to a Russian company.
Imports to Japan were down 19 percent from a year earlier to 193,141 barrels per day, data released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed on Thursday.