The latest official figures show that imports of Iranian crude oil by major buyers in Asia tumbled 29 percent in November from the same month a year ago to the lowest volumes since April 2016.
In total, China, India, Japan and South Korea imported 1.36 million barrels per day (bpd) last month from Iran, Reuters reported quoting government and ship-tracking data.
The drop came after imports hit highs earlier this year and last when Tehran ramped up exports after the lifting of sanctions that had targeted its disputed nuclear program.
The slowdown had been expected, as oil loadings bound for Asia fell below 1.5 million bpd in October, Reuters quoted a person with knowledge of Iran’s tanker schedules.
Tehran is pushing to retain its prized Asian customers, hoping price reductions will boost the appeal of its crude compared with other Middle Eastern grades.
China, the biggest buyer, purchased 8.8 percent less oil from Iran year-on-year.
Meanwhile, India’s refiners cut Iranian oil imports by more than half in November, Reuters added, squeezing them to a 21-month low.
Imports to Japan were down 19 percent from a year earlier to 193,141 barrels per day, the report added.
More than 60% of Iran’s crude oil is shipped to Asian countries and about 40% to Europe. The country continues to retain its major Asian oil customers by offering spot cargoes as it tries hard to regain lost market share since sanctions were lifted last year.