Japan's crude imports from Iran fall 6.3 percent
Japan's customs-cleared crude imports from Iran fell 6.3 percent in March from a year ago, amid tightening Western sanctions that make it difficult to do business with the Islamic Republic, Reuters reported.
The drop comes even after the United States exempted Japan and 10 EU nations from sanctions due to take effect in July as they had significantly cut purchases of Iranian oil. Soon after receiving the exemption, Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Japan would continue to cut imports of Iranian oil.
March imports from Iran totalled 1,751,737 kilolitres (355,400 barrels per day), down from 379,200 bpd in the same month a year earlier, government data showed on Thursday.
Japan's crude imports from Iran last month were, however, 32.8 percent higher than February's 267,700 bpd, although a month-on-month comparison may have been affected by the delay or early arrival of a few cargoes.
Total March crude imports rose 6 percent on demand for reconstruction and as utilities ramped up oil and gas use to offset the drop in nuclear output following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Japan's more closely watched monthly oil data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is due on Friday. The METI data reflecting shipments to refineries and oil terminals sometimes differs from customs-cleared trade data.
In the first three months of this year, Japan imported 4,684,090 kl (323,800 bpd) of Iranian crude, the custom-cleared data also showed. The imports were down 22.6 percent from 418,100 bpd in the first quarter of 2011 but were up 8.2 percent from 299,300 bpd in the October-December quarter.
The United States and Europe are trying to squeeze the revenues Iran makes from its oil exports to force it to halt a nuclear programme they fear will be used to make weapons but which Tehran says is for civilian purposes.
As a result of sanctions, South Korea's crude imports from Iran fell 40 percent in March from the same period a year earlier. China also halved its imports last month from a year ago due to disputes over contract terms.
Japan is expected to slash its crude purchases from Iran by almost 80 percent in April compared to the earlier months of the year, as buyers comply with sanctions that make it tough to pay, ship and insure the oil.
Edited by: S. Isayev