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Saudi Arabia Loses No. 1 Spot to Iraq in Crude Exports to India

Iraq has now overtaken Saudi Arabia in crude oil exports to India, shipping some 960,700 barrels per day (bpd) to India in April, against Saudi Arabia’s 787,700 bpd in exports to the Asian nation, turning the tables on the Saudis and placing Iraq at the top of the chain of OPEC members grappling for market share in this growing economy.

Iraq’s oil exports to India rose by 41 percent in April and by 79 percent compared to a year ago. At the same time, Saudi Arabia’s exports to India were down 14 percent in April over the same time last year.

Overall, Iraq accounted for 22 percent of India’s crude oil imports in April, while last year it accounted for 15 percent. Saudi Arabia’s India crude oil market share dropped to 18 percent, down from 25 percent last year.

Related: Iran Hits Saudis Where It Hurts, Offers Discounts On Asian Crude

India has seen a new surge in crude oil imports overall. Since March, Indian crude imports are up 6% on the month, and up 9.9 percent in the first four months of this year. For the first four months of 2015, imports fell 0.6 percent from a year ago largely due to outages at refineries.

Demand for crude oil in India has risen this year due to a lack maintenance processes at Indian refineries, which have been postponed and would normally have taken refineries offline for a spell.

Analysts are not surprised by this latest market share change: "Iraqi oil is much more beneficial than Saudi because they are better priced. There is a significance difference in prices," said A. K. Sharma, head of finance at Indian Oil Corp, as reported by Reuters.

Related: Appreciating Dollar Caps Crude Rally Again

But Iran is also zeroing in on Indian market share, with a fair amount of success and could challenge both Iraq and Saudi Arabia here. The country accounted for about 9 percent of overall purchases in April compared to about 7.2 percent a year ago.

Over the first four months of 2016, Iranian oil accounted for about 7.4 percent of Indian imports from about 4 percent a year ago, becoming fifth-largest oil supplier to India compared with the eighth position a year ago.

By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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