New Delhi: Even though global crude oil prices continue to rule at the uncomfortable level of USD 110 a barrel, the government on Monday hinted that petrol and diesel prices are unlikely to be hiked in haste.

"I think oil companies must be watching global markets, which is today characterised by unusual volatility. They will in good time take a view," Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy told reporters here.

In all probability, petrol and diesel prices may not be hiked till Assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are completed in May.

State-run Indian Oil Corp, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum currently sell petrol, a commodity which the government freed from its control in June last year, at a discount of about Rs 4.50 a litre to its imported cost.

"As far as petrol is concerned, there is no doubt it is decontrolled... Oil companies must be watching global markets and will take studied decision (on raising prices)," he said.

Diesel, whose price is still controlled by the government, is sold at a loss of Rs 15.79 a litre or Rs 283 crore per day.

On diesel, he said "it is too early" to call a meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to decide on raising rates.

The basket of crude oil that India buys has averaged USD 110.61 per barrel this month as against USD 72-73 a barrel at the time of the last revision in diesel prices in June, 2010.

The three firms had last hiked petrol price by Rs 2.50 on January 15. Since deregulation of rates in June, the rates have gone up about Rs 7 per litre in five installments to Rs 58.37 per litre.

Besides petrol, the three retailers are losing a record Rs 15.79 a litre on diesel, Rs 24.74 per litre on kerosene and Rs 297.80 per 14.2-kg LPG cylinder.

The three firms are losing a cumulative Rs 432 crore in revenue every day on selling diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene below cost, the official said.

 

(Agencies)