Market data for March appear to confirm the most pessimistic forecasts for fuel demand in the month when measures were introduced to protect society from the new coronavirus.
From a year-on-year decline of 13 percent in the first week of March, gasoline sales went on to drop 20 percent in the second week when schools were closed, and recorded a 57 percent annual slump in the last week of March.
Therefore, after a very positive first couple of months this year, March saw gasoline record a yearly contraction of 33 percent in sales, which according to market estimates will be followed by an 80 percent slide this month, given that Greeks will not be allowed to travel over the Easter holidays as they usually do.
Diesel sales did not fall at the same rate as those of gasoline, showing a steady rate of descent of between 15 and 20 percent, with sales by the end of the month posting an average annual drop of 17 percent. The contained decline in diesel sales has been put down to the increase in road freight transport to satisfy higher demand both at supermarkets and for online commerce, as well as the sunny weather, which, combined with the closure of cafes, has brought forward agricultural activities, according to market estimates. Nevertheless, the market estimates that diesel will also see a gradual drop in sales this month, expected to come to 40 percent from April 2019.
In contrast, heating oil sales rose as the protective measures increased toward the end of March, when they posted a 68 percent annual expansion. The combination of relatively cold weather in many areas of the country with the nationwide lockdown, as well as the considerably lower rates, sent heating oil sales soaring last month.
The president of the fuel trading companies association, Yiannis Aligizakis, speaks of a deep recession in the sector that is threatening the sustainability of small enterprises; they face a major liquidity problem as a result of reduced sales, the measures regarding postdated bills of exchange, and tax obligations.