BEIJING - China's gasoline exports jumped in March from the previous two months as refiners strived to ease inventory pressure amid tepid domestic demand.

The exported volume was nonetheless 26% lower than a year ealier, because of cuts to export quotas. China shipped out 1.16 million tonnes of gasoline last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday. That compared with 1.02 million tonnes in February and 1.56 million tonnes in March 2021. The daily average in March was 37,419 tonnes, up from 31,864 in the previous two months, the first to be affected by the quota cuts. Diesel exports reached 670,000 tonnes in March, which was up from a seven-year low in February but still 76% short of 2.81 million tonnes a year before. Jet kerosene exports were up 7.2% on March 2021, at 770,000 tonnes, the data showed.

In December, Beijing slashed 2022 quotas for exporting fuel products, except marine fuel, with the aim of shutting excess refining capacity, balancing domestic supply and demand, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Then, in March, it prompted increased production to secure supply as the Ukraine crisis drove up interational prices. Yet measures to reduce mobility in response to COVID outbreaks have cut domestic gasoline and diesel demand and left refiners with too much stock, prompting them to lower operating rates and use quotas quickly to export more.

Analysts and traders do not expect China's fuel demand to pick up before mid-May. So exporters meanwhile have an incentive to further increase exports. Customs data on Monday also showed China's liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports slid 17% from a year earlier to 4.63 million tonnes in March. 

(Reporting by Muyu Xu and Chen Aizhu; Editing by Bradley Perrett)