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Iraq could overtake Saudi Arabia as the biggest crude oil supplier to India in the current fiscal year ending March 31 as an attractive Basrah crude price and Riyadh's strong commitment to the OPEC production cut agreement pave the way for Baghdad to boost its market share in South Asia.

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India, the world's third-largest crude importer, bought 38.9 million mt from Iraq during the first 10 months of fiscal 2017-2018, provisional data from the oil ministry showed.

Saudi Arabia was the second-biggest crude supplier with 30.9 million mt over the April 2017-January 2018 period, the oil ministry data showed.

India's top 10 crude suppliers - April 2017 to January 2018

In the previous fiscal year, Saudi Arabia was the top crude supplier with 39.5 million mt, followed by Iraq with 37.5 million mt and Iran with 27.2 million mt. Saudi Arabia's faltering market share in India is in line with crude import trends seen in Northeast Asia over the past few quarters.

The biggest OPEC producer's strong commitment to limit production may have helped some of its rival producers gain market share across Asia, market participants said.

Since early in the third quarter last year, Saudi Aramco has been regularly slashing its monthly crude term allocations to various customers in Asia, prompting them to shift to Iraq as the country's production has been relatively unfazed by OPEC output cuts.



"You could say Iraq offered Asia some respite from hefty export cuts from other major OPEC producers ... SOMO [State Oil Marketing Organization] had ample barrels to sell," a sour crude trader based in Singapore said.

In addition, the attractive price tag on Iraq's flagship Basrah crude could draw even more Asian consumers going forward, regional sour crude traders said.

The official selling price differential of Basrah Light recently fell below rival Saudi Arab Medium for the first time in more than a year.

Earlier this year, SOMO lowered the OSP differential of Basrah Light loading in February and bound for Asia by 30 cents/b from January to a discount of 5 cents/b to the Platts Oman and Dubai average.

This put the Basrah Light OSP differential for February at a discount of 10 cents/b to Arab Medium OSP differential for the same month. The spread was last narrower in October 2016 when the Iraqi grade was priced at a discount of 15 cents/b to the Saudi crude.


TOP 10 SUPPLIERS TO INDIA


Among the top 10 suppliers to India, Iran occupied the third spot with around 18.4 million mt of crude oil during the 10-month period, the oil ministry data showed.

In the fourth spot was Venezuela with 15.6 million mt of crude oil, followed by Nigeria with 14.9 million mt, the UAE with 11.8 million mt, Kuwait with 10.2 million mt, Mexico with 6.9 million mt, Angola with 6.8 million mt and Oman with 4.6 million mt.

The top five suppliers - Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria - contributed 64% of India's total crude imports of 184.5 million mt in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year.

The top 10 countries supplied a total of 159 million mt of crude to India during the period, equivalent to around 86% of South Asian consumer's total imports of 184.5 million mt.

-- Gawoon Philip Vahn, Philip.Vahn@spglobal.com

-- Ratnajyoti Dutta, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by E Shailaja Nair, shailaja.nair@spglobal.com