June 28, 2019 / 6:18 AM / 19 days ago

Asia's Iran oil imports fall to lowest in at least five years in May

FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File Photo/File Photo

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Asia’s crude oil imports from Iran fell in May to the lowest in at least five years after China and India wound down purchases amid U.S. sanctions, while Japan and South Korea halted imports, data from government and trade sources showed on Friday.

Total imports from Asia’s top four buyers came to 386,021 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude in May, down 78.5% from a year ago to the lowest monthly level since the data began to be collected by Reuters in 2014.

Imports had hit a 9-month high of 1.62 million bpd just a month earlier as buyers rushed to ship in as much as they could before waivers from U.S. sanctions on Iran expired at the start of May.

The United States withdrew from a nuclear accord between world powers and Iran last year and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran that cut off legitimate means for the OPEC producer to export its oil.

The absence of Iranian oil drove spot premiums for crude sharply higher as Asian buyers scoured the world for replacement supplies.

Reporting by Florence Tan; editing by Richard Pullin

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