NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's local fuel sales increased at their slowest pace in more than a decade in the year to March, reflecting the sluggish growth of its economy and manufacturing activity.
India's economic growth has almost halved to below 5 percent in the past two years on weak investments and consumer demand, the worst slowdown for the south Asian nation since the 1980s.
Local oil product sales, a proxy for oil demand in the world's fourth-largest oil consumer, rose 0.7 percent to 158.2 million tonnes in fiscal year 2013/14, according to the data from the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) of the oil ministry.
It was the slowest pace of growth since a 0.4 percent rate was registered in 2001/02.
Diesel consumption, which accounts for over 40 percent of local fuel sales, declined 1 percent in the year, its first fall in more than a decade, the data showed.
Higher rainfall and improved power supply curbed demand for diesel from farmers, who use it to power irrigation equipment.
A sustained rise in retail diesel prices narrowed the gap with prices of gasoline. Gasoline consumption grew by 8.8 percent in the year, despite declining vehicle sales.
Sales of trucks and buses, which mostly run on diesel, declined about a fifth in the year due to a weak economy and high interest rates.
In March, India consumed 0.8 percent more refined products than in the same month of 2013, the data showed, helped by higher sales of cooking gas after the government raised the cap on the number of subsidised gas cylinders allowed per household.
India shipped in about 3.81 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in 2013/14, a growth of 2.6 percent over the previous year. In March, imports declined 1 percent to 3.5 million bpd, the data showed.
Both imports and exports of oil products declined 4.6 percent in March versus the same month a year ago, the data showed.
The data for imports and exports is preliminary, because private refiners provide data at their discretion.
(Additional reporting by Manoj Kumar in NEW DELHI; editing by Jane Baird)
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