Demand for fuel in the domestic market recorded an unexpected drop last month, led by diesel, which slumped 14 percent on an annual basis and 8.5 percent from March. Traders in the various forms of gasoline posted notable year-on-year losses ranging from 5 to 10 percent (depending on the fuel company) even though Easter was in April this year (in 2016 it was in May), leading to an increase in traffic on national and local roads.
This negative result for April came on the back of a 4 percent decline in fuel sales turnover in March on an annual basis. The first quarter of the year saw a 2 percent increase in total fuel turnover but that was due to the 11 percent rise in heating oil turnover generated by a particularly cold January. Gasoline dropped 5 percent and diesel rose just 1 percent.
The general picture of the market in April has raised concern among fuel trading companies and oil refineries, which for the last week have been trying to interpret the data in the hope that the sector is not entering another recessionary cycle after seeing 40 percent of its turnover evaporate over the previous eight years.
The president and vice president of the Hellenic Petroleum Marketing Companies Association (SEEPE), Yiannis Aligizakis and Roberto Karahannas, told Kathimerini the drop in diesel sales turnover last month was due to a combination of factors, although they were not certain about them.
“These are unusual fluctuations which generate concerns and worry us. Due to the increase in vehicles using diesel, the various forms of gasoline will be on a steady downward course, while diesel got us accustomed to a marginally growing trend. However, the fluctuations the two forms of fuel showed in April are unusual and are of concern, particularly that of diesel, whose demand reflects the general atmosphere about the course of the economy,” the two SEEPE representatives said.
A preliminary account of possible factors includes the process for completion of works on highways, delays in agricultural work due to bad weather, a possible stocking of heating oil to be used in the market as diesel as April was the last month heating oil was sold, and the reduction in April’s working days by two this year.
“We will still have to wait for May’s data before we can reach any safe conclusions,” they added.