NEW DELHI - India has urged OPEC and allied oil producers to ease production cuts as higher crude prices are hitting fuel demand in Asia's third largest economy and adding to inflation, its oil minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, said on Wednesday.
"The price-sensitive Indian consumers are affected by rising petroleum product prices," Pradhan said ahead of a March 4 policy-setting meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+.
Oil has been supported in the past few weeks by OPEC+ supply curbs and hopes of a demand rebound due to COVID-19 vaccinations. Benchmark Brent crude rose to $64.72 a barrel at 1237 GMT.
Retail prices of heavily taxed gasoline and gasoil in India have touched record highs due to the spurt in global prices. India, the world's third biggest oil consumer and importer, meets over 84% of its oil needs through imports.
India's gasoline demand, which had recovered to pre-COVID levels in August, declined in the first two weeks of February while the pace of fall in diesel demand widened to about a six-month high, preliminary industry sales data showed.
Besides hitting fuel demand, higher oil prices could potentially hinder economic growth in developing countries including India, he said.
"The rising crude oil prices during the last few weeks is hurting the fragile global economic recovery due to significant demand contraction, which might even mirror the impact of COVID-19 in its initial stages."
Pradhan said India has been able to contain the inflationary pressure on several fronts "but not those impacted by crude prices."
"The key producing countries have not only revised the production cuts over and above the previously announced levels but also added additional voluntary cuts," Pradhan said, referring to voluntary cuts by Saudi Arabia. Last month also India blamed voluntary oil output cuts by Saudi Arabia for a spike in oil prices.
He said demand recovery should take primacy over crude prices at least for next few months. "I am appealing for easing of production cuts by the key oil exporting countries," he said.
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Alex Richardson and Steve Orlofsky) ((email@example.com; +91 11 49548031; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))