NEW DELHI: India's oil imports from Iran fell for the fourth straight month in November to touch an eight-month low, preliminary tanker arrival data obtained by Reuters shows, as its two biggest buyers cut purchases to meet annual targets.
Western sanctions against Iran's controversial nuclear programme limits the Gulf country's oil exports to 1-1.1 million barrels per day (bpd), with buyers such as India curbing annual purchases to 220,000 bpd.
But India, the world's fourth biggest oil consumer, has been stepping up purchases of cheaper crude from regions including the Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
The country's year-on-year imports from Iran fell nearly 45 percent to about 138,100 bpd in November - a 24 percent drop from October, according to the data and a report compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts.
Private refiner Essar Oil's purchases tanked by more than three-quarters to about 1 million barrels, while imports by the other big buyer, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd, declined to about 2 million barrels.
Occasional buyer Indian Oil Corp, the country's biggest refiner, bought 1 million barrels in November. The company has an annual contract to buy an average 25,000 bpd.
India's January-November imports from Iran shrank by about a quarter to 206,000 bpd, dragged down by deep cuts in shipments by New Delhi in the first quarter of 2015 under pressure from the United States to keep its imports within the limits of sanctions.
In the first eight months of the current fiscal year that began in April imports are down by about 1 percent at 235,400 bpd.
Previously OPEC's No. 2 producer, Iran is now trying to recoup market share lost due to the sanctions and has extended crude deals with the top two Chinese buyers into 2016 while initiating talks with other potential buyers.
Asian imports of Iranian oil fell to the lowest level in two years in October as most of Iran's biggest crude buyers held off from increasing purchases after a July agreement that would grant relief to Iran from sanctions early next year if it curbs its nuclear programme.