Japan’s exports to the rest of the world are still sinking in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the northeastern part of the country on March 11.
According to preliminary trade figures released by the Finance Ministry on Thursday, Japan’s overall exports plunged 12.7 percent between April 1 and 20 from the same 20-day period last year to 3.128 trillion yen ($38.62 billion).
Japan’s overall imports rose 14.2 percent between April 1 and 20 from a year earlier to $48.33 billion, due mainly to higher prices for such commodities as crude oil.
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As a result, Japan posted a big trade deficit of $9.71 billion with the rest of the world in the April 1-20 period, compared with a trade surplus of $1.91 billion a year earlier.
The Finance Ministry routinely gives only yen-denominated trade figures.
Preliminary trade figures for the whole of March, which were released by the Finance Ministry on April 20, showed that Japan’s overall exports rose 14.8 percent between March 1 and 10 -- the day before the twin natural disasters –- but tumbled 9.7 percent between March 11 and 31 on a year-over-year basis.
The disasters directly affected many auto, electronics and other parts makers’ plants, causing disruptions to supply chains. They also caused the immediate shutdown of four nuclear power plants, including the Fukushima No.1 plant at the center of the ongoing nuclear crisis.
As a result, many factories in a wide range of industries, even in the unaffected areas, have been forced to stop or curtail operations due to parts and electricity shortages.
Amid the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, about 220 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, many foreign countries have also tightened radiation checks on Japanese food imports and banned all or some of them.
Japan relies heavily on exports for growth. The country is now the world’s third-largest economy after the United States and China.
The Finance Ministry is due to release preliminary trade figures for the whole of April on May 25.
The preliminary figures for the April 1-20 period, released Thursday, reinforced a view among many analysts that Japan will likely incur a deficit in its trade with the rest of the world for the first time in three months in April. Japan’s trade deficit in April would be the first for that month since 1980.