Japan’s crude oil imports fell 5.8 percent in fiscal 2001 to 1.508 billion barrels due to slack demand for petroleum products in the country’s lumping economy, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Tuesday.

Imports from the Middle East lost 5 percent, to 1.326 billion barrels but their share of the total inched up to 87.9 percent from 87.1 percent the previous year.

The United Arab Emirates ranked top among the suppliers, although its Japan-bound exports tumbled 12.2 percent to 359.79 million barrels.

Saudi Arabia was second with exports down 2.8 percent to 335.67 million barrels, followed by Iran at 187.91 million barrels, up 2.2 percent; Qatar at 160.99 million barrels, up 4.3 percent; and Kuwait at 108.31 million barrels, down 8.6 percent.

In March alone, Japan’s imports lost 6.4 percent from a year earlier to 140.59 million barrels for the sixth successive monthly decline.

Imports from the Middle East dropped 5.9 percent to 124.78 million barrels and their share rose to 88.8 percent from February’s 85.9 percent.

The United Arab Emirates remained the biggest supplier, imports from which climbed up 1.9 percent to 38.45 million barrels, followed by Saudi Arabia, whose exports to Japan plummeted 18 percent to 30.29 million barrels.

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