Cuts of 5-10 per cent in total OPEC output are to be proposed at a ministerial meeting to be held on 25 March. However, hopes of an earlier meeting to address the price slump have evaporated amid continuing signs that Saudi Arabia is unprepared to take unilateral action to cut its output, which has been running at 8 million barrels a day (b/d).

Qatar’s Energy & Industry Minister, Abdullah Bin Hamad al-Attiya, said on 9 February that Qatar and Nigeria had agreed to propose a 5-10 per cent cut at the meeting. He was speaking following a meeting in Doha with Nigeria’s Oil Minister, Don Etiebet. Al-Attiya is the president of OPEC.

Al-Attiya said he was confident that the March meeting would reach an agreement on prices. He added that he was optimistic that non-OPEC producers were willing to co-operate with OPEC members about production cuts.

Analysts have now accepted that there is no prospect of an emergency OPEC meeting. Saudi Arabia, which has resisted pressure for unilateral output cuts, is also said to have concluded that it is too early to consider specific measures for cutting production.

The New York-based Petroleum Intelligence Weekly estimates combined OPEC crude oil production fell to 24.9 million b/d in January from just over 25 million b/d in December. OPEC’s September agreement called for combined output to be kept to 24.52 million b/d during October 1993-March 1994. The Washington-based Petroleum Finance Company estimates OPEC crude oil production was 24.73 million b/d in January.