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Crude import bill up Rs 6,000 cr

Our Bureau

The Union Petroleum Minister, Mr Ram Naik, visiting ``Energium 2003'' in Mumbai on Sunday.

MUMBAI, April 6

THE country's crude oil import bill for 2002-03 has risen by Rs 6,000 crore because of higher international prices, to an estimated Rs 84,000 crore, said Mr Ram Naik, Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, has said.

The Minister said increasing international oil prices are putting pressure on economies of both developed and developing countries. Crude prices, which stood at $19-20 per barrel in February 2002, currently are close to $36 per barrel. India imports 70 per cent of its 110 million-tonne crude requirements.

"Crude prices have risen by 75 to 80 per cent since last year. Higher prices and sharp volatility in international markets resulted in a higher import bill," Mr Naik said on the sidelines of an energy conservation exhibition here today. If even one per cent of petroleum products could be conserved, the country could save Rs 840 crore.

Although crude prices fell after the US war against Iraq began 18 days ago, prices have been rising with every passing day as it becomes clear that the conflict may last longer than predicted.

Mr Naik reiterated that the country had crude and petroleum product stocks to last 60 days. He admitted that prolonging of the war has been of concern as it has pushed up prices. A price range of $20-22 per barrel would be ideal for the Indian economy.

India has not suffered any oil supply disruption from Iraq under the food-for-oil scheme. "We have not been sending food to Iraq in return for oil for the last 6-8 months as the UN had not recommended our quota. So there has been no disruption," he said

Mr Naik said that there had been no changes in petroleum product prices in the country as oil companies decided to wait and watch the war situation and price movements internationally.

The fourth round of New Exploration and Licensing Policy and the second round of granting coal-bed methane blocks for exploration would begin in the last week of this month.

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