* Exports to Asia up 5 pct on month; China imports hit 11-mth high
* Iran’s Aug crude, condensate exports to total 2.37 mln bpd
* Indian purchases to hit 18-month low
By Osamu Tsukimori and Florence Tan
TOKYO/SINGAPORE, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Iran’s oil exports to China may rise to the highest in 11 months in August as demand for heavier Iranian crude increased after the country cut its prices, two sources with knowledge of the matter said on Thursday.
Iran may continue to win Chinese market share in the second half of 2017 as production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and falling Latin American output have tightened heavy crude supplies.
Chinese buyers are also importing more Middle East crude as the Dubai price benchmark has weakened against Brent, one of the sources said.
To attract buyers, Iran cut the official selling prices of heavier grades Iranian Heavy and Forozan Blend in the third quarter by 2 cents a barrel from the previous three months, Reuters calculations showed.
However, overall Iranian crude exports in August for Asia are set to fall to 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd), down 0.3 percent from July, the second source said.
Iran’s global combined crude oil and condensate exports may total 2.37 million bpd this month, down 4 percent from a year earlier, the source said, which would mark the first year-on-year decline in four months.
Crude and condensate exports to Asia are rising 5 percent from July to almost 1.65 million bpd while those to Europe will fall 15 percent from the previous month to 613,000 bpd. Exports to the Middle East are staying little changed at 111,000 bpd.
Loadings to India will drop by 25 percent from July to 310,000 bpd this month, the lowest since February 2016, in a possible retaliation for Tehran not awarding a gas field development to Indian companies.
During the third quarter, Indian refiners have turned to the spot market and picked up sour crude from Abu Dhabi, Oman and Russia to meet their demand.
Iran plans to raise oil output by about 200,000 bpd to around 4 million bpd by the end of 2017. It was exempted from the OPEC deal to reduce output to regain market share after Western sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme were lilted in January 2016.
South Korea in August will pass India as the second-biggest lifter of Iranian crude for the first time since January 2016, taking nearly 380,000 bpd, the source said.
Taiwan is lifting Iranian oil this month for the first time since April, totalling 2 million barrels, said the source.
Other Asian lifters include Japan at 157,000 bpd, up 6 percent from July.
In Europe, Turkey will take 258,000 bpd, up 7 percent from July, while Italy will take 129,000 bpd, steady from last month.
In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates will take 111,000 bpd, up 3 percent from July.
In addition to this month’s exports, Iran is also putting 2 million barrels into its offshore storage, according to the source.
Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori in TOKYO and Florence Tan in SINGAPORE; Editing by Christian Schmollinger