Crude-oil imports decline for second consecutive year

Japan’s crude-oil imports in fiscal 1999 fell 2.3 percent from the previous year to 1.56 billion barrels, marking the second consecutive year of decline, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry said Wednesday in a preliminary report.

Curbs on production by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries were partially responsible for the decline, a ministry official said.

The decrease can also be attributed to a sluggish Japanese economy, which drove down domestic production of petroleum products, the official said.

In March alone, crude oil imports fell 11.6 percent from a year earlier to 137.5 million barrels, marking the first year-on-year drop in three months.

In fiscal 1999, which ended March 31, imports from the Middle East totaled 1.32 billion barrels, down 4.1 percent from the previous year.

Imports from the region accounted for 84.6 percent of the total in the fiscal year, down by 1.6 percentage points from a year earlier.

The United Arab Emirates was Japan’s top oil supplier for the 15th consecutive year, providing 380.39 million barrels, down 14.9 percent from the previous year.

The United Arab Emirates was followed by Saudi Arabia at 304.18 million barrels, down 7.3 percent; Iran at 179.64 million barrels, down 0.5 percent; Qatar at 148.79 million barrels, up 2.4 percent; and Oman at 93.27 million barrels, up 8.9 percent. ; and Kuwait at 92.43 million barrels, up 1.8 percent.

Imports from Southeast Asian countries in the fiscal year were unchanged from the previous year at 136.94 million barrels, while those from African countries surged 73.6 percent to 17.44 million barrels.

In March, imports from the Middle East fell 13.3 percent from a year earlier to 115.3 million barrels, accounting for 83.9 percent of the total, down 2.2 percentage points from February.

Saudi Arabia became Japan’s top oil supplier in March for the first time in 29 months, with 33.53 million barrels, up 20.6 percent. Previous top supplier the United Arab Emirates provided 30.38 million barrels, down 26.5 percent.

Meanwhile, Japan’s domestic sales of petroleum products in fiscal 1999 increased 1.7 percent from the previous year to 244.24 million kiloliters, posting the first annual increase in four years.

In March, domestic sales of petroleum products dropped 0.7 percent to 22.82 million kiloliters.