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Oil imports rose to the highest level in 21 months in September as refiners and traders hurried to clear supplies through customs ahead of a tax increase that started Oct. 1.

The country’s crude imports gained 22.5 percent to 20.79 million kl last month, the highest since December 2010, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report Monday.

An environment tax of ¥250, aimed at helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions, was added to a ¥2,040 per kl levy on crude and oil-product supplies brought into the country.

The government tacked on ¥260 to a duty of ¥1,080 per metric ton for liquefied natural gas imports and ¥220 on a coal tax of ¥700 a ton.

“The reason behind the increase is very simple,” said Shohei Seto, a Tokyo-based manager for the crude trading group at JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. “Everyone rushed to pass customs for the oil they brought in before the tax increases.”

LNG imports rose 6.3 percent in the month to 7.1 million tons, while coal imports increased 23.6 percent to 17.4 million tons.

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