CARACAS: Venezuela will ask for an emergency meeting of OPEC countries to try to halt sliding oil prices, Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez said.
A barrel of Venezuelan crude closed at $82.72 on Friday, a drop of $3.17 for the week, one of the lowest levels in the past three years.
“We are going to ask for an extraordinary OPEC meeting. We need to try to coordinate some sort of action to stop falling oil prices,” Ramirez said at a Caracas news conference.
“I am convinced this is not due to market conditions, but is price manipulation to create economic problems for large oil-producing businesses,” added Ramirez, who is the former oil minister and ex-head of the public oil company PDVSA.
This year, Venezuelan crude has averaged $94.99 per barrel, compared to $98.08 in 2013 and $103.42 in 2012.
“It doesn’t suit anyone if the price of oil falls below $100 a barrel,” Ramirez said.
The next regular meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is scheduled for November 27 at the group’s Vienna headquarters in Austria.
According to Ramirez, the price drop is due to an overproduction in non-OPEC countries — a reference to shale oil, of which the US is the world’s top producer.
While it has some of the world’s biggest oil reserves, Venezuela only produces 2.4 million barrels a day, which bring in 96 percent of its foreign currency reserves.
The 12 members of OPEC, who pump about a third of the world’s crude, said that world demand will grow by 1.05 million barrels per day (mbpd) to 91.19 mbpd this year.
For 2015, OPEC predicted demand to reach 92.38 mbpd, unchanged from its previous forecast.
Brent oil prices tumbled this week to a four-year low on plentiful crude supplies and on demand fears arising from global economic uncertainty.
Ecuador’s Oil Minister Pedro Merizalde told Reuters earlier that current oil prices are normal given an increase in US production, and that they will be discussed at the OPEC meeting in late November.
“A meeting is planned in late November and that’s when we will talk,” about prices, Merizalde said when asked whether OPEC should hold an emergency meeting before its planned Nov. 27 gathering.
Merizalde said Ecuador, the smallest member of OPEC, isn’t worried about oil prices.
“It’s normal given the increase in production in the US due to shale oil and shale gas,” Merizalde said on the sidelines of an event to showcase new oil contracts aimed at increasing the South American country’s production. “It’s within the range of price variations,” he added.
The Andean country produces roughly 540,000 barrels per day.