South Africa’s March Iranian Crude Oil Imports Almost Double

South Africa imported 3.37 billion rand ($435 million) of crude oil from Iran in March, almost double the value of shipments a year earlier, as the country weighs joining sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation.

Crude imports totaled 11 billion rand in March, with 30 percent from Iran, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement today. Nigeria was the biggest supplier in the month with 40 percent. Saudi Arabia accounted for 22 percent and the rest came from Angola.

South Africa imported no crude in January from Iran, whose nuclear development program has sparked accusations from the U.S. and the European Union that enriched uranium may be diverted to produce weapons. Purchases by South Africa totaled 2.8 billion rand in February and were 1.73 billion rand in March last year.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed a law on Dec. 31 that denies foreign banks that do business with the Central Bank of Iran access to that country’s financial system. The U.S. may impose penalties should a country not make “significant” reductions in Iranian crude oil purchases in the first half of this year.

South Africa’s imports from Iran increased to 6.8 million barrels of oil in the first three months of the year, from 6.5 million barrels in the same period in 2011, Adrian Lackay, a SARS spokesman, said by phone.

Refinery Shutdown

Petroliam Nasional Bhd.’s Engen unit, the biggest South African importer of Iranian crude, said April 4 it suspended imports of oil from the Middle Eastern nation amid economic sanctions by the U.S. and the EU. Engen will shut its refinery, the nation’s second-biggest, from May 6 to 26, the Department of Energy said last week.

Africa’s biggest economy shipped in 27 billion rand of crude from Iran last year, comprising 26 percent of total oil imports, it said.

A government team is due to submit a report on Iran to South Africa’s cabinet by the end of May. The report will include recommendations on whether the country should impose sanctions on Iran, and whether an application should be made for a U.S. waiver, Nelisiwe Magubane, director general of the department of energy, said earlier this month.

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