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EghtesadOnline: The National Iranian Oil Company's exports have plummeted sharply since the beginning of August, as traditional customers like China, Japan and India have curtailed their purchases in view of the reimposition of US sanctions in November, a senior energy analyst said.

Morteza Behrouzifard added that the country's crude sales dropped by 700,000 barrels to 1.68 million barrels per day in August, a 20% decrease from the same period in July, ILNA reported.

The dramatic falloff coincides directly with US President Donald Trump’s  withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, which lifted sanctions about two years ago.

"Even with substantial discounts, big oil buyers will opt for the US due to their national interests," Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.

The expert believes that under critical economic circumstances, all states, including China and India, will do their best to secure their own benefits and take advantage of the situation to maximize their profit.

"They [China and India] might continue purchasing Iran's oil, yet they can pay neither in dollar nor in euros," he said, adding that receiving oil money in Chinese yuan or Indian rupee will translate into spending the money in those countries as it cannot be transferred to Iran via banking channels.

According to Forbes, NIOC's exports are down a whopping 62% since May, when Iranian oil sales reached a record 2.7 million bpd.

July saw many of Iran’s top buyers boost their export, as refiners rushed to secure as many cargoes as possible before the first round of US sanctions come into effect. 

According to Platts S&P Global, tanker loadings to Iran’s largest customer – China—reached 800, 000 bpd up from 722,000 bpd in June. 

India—Iran’s second largest buyer—also boosted its intake in July, adding 40,000 bpd month-on-month. Japan nearly doubled its purchases of Iran crude between May and July, climbing from 106,000 bpd to 185,000 bpd.

  OPEC Meeting

Referring to the forthcoming OPEC meeting in December, Behrouzifard noted that the country does not have the upper hand in the organization and whatever decisions are made cannot help it tackle its challenges.

"Even if decisions benefit Iran, no one can guarantee their implementation as long as Saudi Arabia, Iran's arch rival, lobbies to curb the country's impact in the world energy market," he said.

The expert concluded that heavy reliance on one sector—be it oil, or an agricultural commodity—means a single shock can devastate it, because of which it cannot be reliable. 

Normalizing relations with the world would be the surest strategy to resolve the country's economic problems.

Reportedly, Tehran is striving to retain its customers and keep exports from dropping further. These measures include offering discounts, cargo insurance and bearing the burden of shipping. To safeguard these incentives, Chinese buyers are starting to shift all imported Iranian crude oil to vessels owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company, as per a deal between Chinese oil giant Sinopec and NIOC.


Iran NIOC crude exports US sanctions