Fuel prices likely to be hiked next month: Govt

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New Delhi, Jan 2 (UNI) Prices of petrol and diesel are expected to go up by Rs four and Rs two per litre respectively and an announcement to this effect is likely to be made by the government in the first week of next month, Petroleum Secretary M S Srinivasan said today.

The much-awaited decision came in the wake of sky-rocketing global crude prices and mounting domestic losses by the oil marketing companies (OMC).

The price hike would most likely be effective from the first week of next month, Mr Srinivasan said.

''The Group of Ministers on food is meeting on January 8 and very soon after that there will be a meeting on fuel prices,'' the Secretary told reporters here.

The government had last increased petrol and diesel prices on June 6, 2006, he said.

With the crude oil prices touching an all-time high, the government was reluctant to increase the fuel prices because of the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

The crude oil prices in the international market traded about 98 dollar-a-barrel today, closing near an all-time high of 99 dollars of November 2007.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora earlier met Finance Minister P Chidambaram to discuss measures to cope with the record crude oil prices, as the country imports over two-thirds of its oil.

The three government-owned OMCs such as Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum are projected to lose Rs 69,753 crore on sale of petrol, diesel, LPG and PDS kerosene as the government has not allowed them to raise prices in line with the price of imported crude.

Petrol is being sold at a loss of Rs 8.74 a litre, diesel at Rs 9.92 per litre, kerosene Rs 20.53 a litre and LPG at a loss of Rs 256.35 per cylinder.

In November, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to look into fuel pricing issues.

Earlier in the day, ONGC Chief R S Sharma said its realisation on crude oil sale during December was 87-88 dollars per barrel.

UNI RT/SBA SR KN1947

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