Diesel retail sales rose by 23.2 percent on year to February 2021 despite the pandemic and economic downturn, ERR's online news in Estonian reports, a record rise for the time of year, and the result of a cutting in excise duties last year.
Alan Vaht, board member at fuel retailer Alexela, told ERR Tuesday that the drop in diesel excise duties was behind most of the growth in sales, adding that this increase peaked with the record sales growth at the turn of the year.
Vaht said: "In the summer months, retail sales of diesel fuel increased by 12-13 percent on year; in autumn the growth in retail sales was as high as 17 percent. The biggest surprise came in December and January – in December growth stood at 22.9 percent compared to the previous year, and in January it swas 23.3 percent. There has been no such growth in the history of the fuel retail market in Estonia before."
Prior to the excise duty cut, which came at the beginning of May, growth in retail sales of diesel fuel in Estonia was negligible, Vaht said. "In February 2020, for example, growth was 1.8 percent," he said.
Diesel prices have been steadily rising since late 2020, however. For several months last year, prices were under a euro per liter at pump.
That said, retail sales for petrol are declining, and the effects of the pandemic and ensuing restrictions are already being felt, Vaht said.
He said: "It can be seen that the COVID-19 restrictions are having their effect, and people are staying home more. Gasoline retail sales fell five percent in February, and March is likely to be worse."
Any ease of restrictions at any time could reverse this, if last year was anything to go by. Vaht said that after the easing of the original round of restrictions declared during the government's emergency situation, declared just over a year ago and running to mid-May, retail sales of gasoline rose 2.5-3.5 percent, he said.
Since many trucks run on diesel, and vital supplies needed to be kept running through the pandemic, this may also explain why sales were more buoyant than for gasoline, more commonly used to fuel private vehicles.
The excise duty cut, put in place by the Center/EKRE/Isamaa administration and following hot on the heels of low world oil prices at the beginning of 2020, reversed the situation where Estonia had been the most expensive place to refuel on diesel.
Hauliers who had previously traveled south of the border to refuel were replenishing in Estonia again, during that time.
Fuel prices rose again Monday, with Gasoline 95 now costing €1.389 per liter at pump (up from €1.349), Gasoline 98 rising from €1.399 to €1.439 a liter, and diesel now costing €1.239 per liter, up from €1.219.
Editor: Andrew Whyte