The March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan disrupted trade as much as they ravaged the countryside.
Japan's exports to the rest of the world fell 2.2 percent to $70.67 billion in March in the first year-over-year decline in 16 months, according to preliminary figures released by the Finance Ministry on Wednesday.
Exports were rising before the earthquake and tsunami, the Finance Ministry said. But the twin natural disasters forced many factories in a wide range of industries to stop production due to a shortage of parts and power outages. They also directly affected many parts makers' plants, causing disruptions to supply chains. And they triggered the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant.
Japan's overall exports rose 14.8 percent between March 1 and March 10 -- the day before the earthquake. But they tumbled 5.9 percent between March 11 and March 20 and the year-on-year pace of decline accelerated to 13.1 percent between March 21 and March 31.
By The Numbers:
U.S. Trade with Japan
Shoei Utsuda, chairman of the Japan Foreign Trade Council, predicted at a press conference on Wednesday that Japan's overall exports will post a "fairly big" decline in April. Utsuda is also chairman of trading giant Mitsui & Co.
Many analysts agree with Utsuda and say that Japan could even incur a deficit in its trade with the rest of the world for the first time in three months in April.
-- Contact Hisane Masaki at firstname.lastname@example.org.