updated 12/22/2005 7:55:36 AM ET 2005-12-22T12:55:36

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is likely to reduce its crude-oil production after the high-demand Northern Hemisphere winter, the group’s president said Thursday.

“I expect OPEC to decrease output for the second quarter,” Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said, adding that the group isn’t expected to change its production policy for the first quarter.

His remarks, made during a one-day visit to Beijing to meet with top Chinese policy makers, are the latest hint from OPEC of its concerns that oil demand will fall after winter, bringing prices down.

Al-Sabah is in Beijing with OPEC’s acting secretary-general Adnan Shihab-Eldin on an official visit to try to further deepen dialogue between oil producers and consumers. China is the world’s second-biggest consumer of oil and third-biggest importer.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange traded up 69 cents at $59.25 a barrel after the news.

On Dec. 12, OPEC agreed to keep current production unchanged, although ministers have indicated they stand ready to cut back if needed at a meeting scheduled for Jan. 31 in Vienna.

The group’s official quota stands at 28 million barrels a day, the highest in its history, and applies to the 10 active members, excluding Iraq.

Al-Sabah, who made several Asian stops last year in his capacity as Kuwait Energy Minister, will hand over the OPEC presidency to Nigeria’s Oil Minister Edmund Daukoru on Jan. 1.

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