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    Only four countries buy Iranian crude this month

    Reuters reported that Iranian oil is only going to China, India, Taiwan and Japan this month.

    It gave import figures showing that Japan’s July buy would run to 98,000 barrels a day, a huge reduction from the 341,000-barrel-a-day average in the first half of 2011.

    The other three countries show increases in July compared to the average in the first half of last year—India up 2 percent, China up 9 percent, and Taiwan up 117 percent.

    The total volume going to the four countries, however, represents a huge cut.  Iran is selling less than half as much oil this month as it did last year.  Total sales in the first half of 2011 were 2,484,000 barrels a day;  the July total is expected to be 1,088,000 barrels a day, Reuters said, a reduction of 56 percent.

    Single month figures for a country can be tricky.  A purchase shifted from the last day of this month to the first day of next month can look like a major shift in buying practices when it is just a technicality.  Furthermore, Reuters’ figures are based on orders known to have been placed by mid-month.  Orders from others countries could still be made before July ends.

    Nonetheless, China, India and Taiwan do not appear to be making any effort to restrain their purchases from Iran.  The Taiwan purchases—up 117 percent from last year—may just be an anomaly.  Taiwan has always been a minor buyer of Iranian oil.  This month, it is buying a single cargo—its first since March.  So while the accompanying table shows Taiwanese purchases of 65,000 barrels a day this month, one might just as logically say Taiwan has bought 16,000 barrels a day over the last four months or half what it bought last year.

    Some of the nine minor buyers are expected to buy some Iranian oil in some months but not in others, like Taiwan

    Turkey and South Korea are not buying any Iranian oil this month.  They had planned to buy reduced quantities, but ended up buying none because of insurance problems.  Iran is offering to insure their tankers, so crude sales to Turkey and South Korea may resume next month.

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