By Nidhi Verma and Sudarshan Varadhan
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Venezuela is open to barter payment arrangements with India as it seeks workarounds to U.S. sanctions imposed in late January, Venezuelan Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo said on Monday.
Caracas, which buys medicines and other products from India, is looking for alternative payment methods to keep oil flowing to what is now its first destination for crude exports after its U.S. customers froze purchases due to sanctions. Quevedo said he wants to double sales to India, which last year bought more than 340,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Venezuela.
"The relationships with India will continue, the trade will continue," Quevedo said, adding that Venezuela wanted to expand trade in services and technology with New Delhi.
The minister told reporters during a conference that Venezuela aimed to double oil supplies to India from 300,000 bpd now. Before sanctions, the United States bought more than 500,000 bpd, making it Venezuela's largest buyer.
"India also wants to increase the intake," Quevedo said after a meeting with Indian refiners in New Delhi.
The U.S. government on Jan. 28 issued its toughest sanctions yet against PDVSA, barring companies based in Venezuela and U.S. subsidiaries from transferring proceeds of oil sales to PDVSA's bank accounts until a new government being formed by congress head Juan Guaido sets up new foreign accounts.
Reliance Industries Ltd and Nayara Energy, partly owned by Russia's Rosneft, both buy Venezuelan oil. Reliance is one of PDVSA's largest cash payers and a prominent fuel supplier to Venezuela through its U.S. unit RIL, according to internal trade records from the state-run company.
Last year, Reliance and Nayara jointly imported 344,100 bpd of Venezuelan crude, down 13 percent from 2017, according to ship tracking data reviewed by Reuters. But India last year remained Venezuela's second largest destination for oil exports.
Barter deals could help India balance its trade with Venezuela. In fiscal 2017/18, India's imports from Venezuela were worth $5.87 billion while its exports were $79.3 million, Indian trade ministry data showed.
The minister said Venezuela's oil output was now 1.57 million bpd, about half its level at the start of the century. Secondary sources estimate production is about 1.2 million bpd.
Quevedo, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said it was important to listen to oil-consuming nations as OPEC and other producers sought to balance supply and demand in the market.
The minister said U.S. sanctions meant Venezuela had lost $20 billion in revenues. He did not give a time frame.
Guaido, who proclaimed himself president last month in a move recognised by the United States and some of its allies, is trying to obtain income accrued by PDVSA's U.S. refining subsidiary, Citgo Petroleum Corp.
In response, PDVSA is taking steps to remove at least two American executives from Citgo's board of directors, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
"U.S. exercises kidnapping of resources around the world. ... It is financial persecution. Now they want to steal Citgo Petroleum from Venezuela," Quevedo said, confirming Venezuela's efforts to remove the two U.S. executives from the board.
Despite U.S. sanctions, Quevedo said there was no shortage of gasoline in Venezuela and said the country's relations with international energy companies continued.
"We have strategic association with several companies around the world," he said, adding that one of those was U.S. energy company Chevron Corp .
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma and Sudarshan Varadhan in NEW DELHI; additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City; Editing by Tom Hogue, Edmund Blair and Jonathan Oatis)