"AlEqtisadiah" from Riyadh
Trade and government data showed yesterday that Asian imports of Iranian oil fell in January to a two-month low, after China and India reduced purchases and Japan continued to stop imports for the third month.
According to "Reuters", the data compiled by Thomson Reuters showed that the top four Asian buyers of Iranian oil, China, India, Japan and South Korea, imported a total of 710,000 and 699 barrels per day in January, down 49 per cent compared to the same month in 2018.
US sanctions that came into force in November reduced Iran's oil exports to Asia sharply, despite Washington's granting exemptions to eight countries that are allowed to import less Iranian oil for six months.
Buyers in Japan and South Korea faced payment and shipping problems that delayed the resumption of Iranian oil imports.
Iran is the fourth-largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Japan last month carried its first shipment of Iranian oil since sanctions were imposed, and the shipment is expected to arrive this month.
South Korea resumed imports of Iranian oil in January after a four-month hiatus, but shipments were 75 percent lower than the same month last year.
Trade sources expected Japanese and South Korean imports of Iranian oil to increase in the coming months until May as buyers try to take advantage of the largest amount they can charge during the period of exemptions.
REFINITIV data showed that Asia's imports in February are expected to be almost double at 1.38 million bpd.
China, Iran's biggest oil buyer, imported 377,000 barrels a day in January, down from more than 500,000 bpd in December.
But China's imports last month remained above its 369,000 barrels per day exemption limit.
India, the second largest buyer of Iranian crude, also reduced its imports in January to 270,000 bpd, which is less than the limit of 300 thousand barrels per day.