Japan logs trade deficit of ¥5.37 trillion in FY21

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japan posted a customs-cleared trade deficit of ¥5,374.9 billion in fiscal 2021, which ended last month, amid soaring commodities prices, government data showed Wednesday.

The deficit, which followed a ¥1,016.1 billion surplus in the previous year, was the fourth largest on record on a fiscal year basis, reflecting inflated imports amid high prices of crude oil and other natural resources, according to preliminary trade data from the Finance Ministry.

Larger deficits were logged in the three years from fiscal 2012, after the March 2011 nuclear accident at the disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant. The triple-meltdown accident forced nuclear reactors in Japan to be suspended and led the country to import more energy sources for thermal power generation.

In fiscal 2021, imports surged 33.3% from the previous year to a record ¥91,253.4 billion, up for the first time in three years. Purchases of crude oil and coal roughly doubled, and those of liquefied natural gas grew by about 50%.

Exports advanced 23.6% to a record ¥85,878.6 billion, also the first increase in three years. Steel shipments grew sharply, and exports of automobiles and semiconductor manufacturing equipment were brisk as well.

In March alone, Japan incurred a trade deficit of ¥412.4 billion, compared with a ¥615.6 billion surplus a year before, marking a monthly deficit for the eighth straight month.

The deficit was far larger than the median forecast of ¥71.5 billion among 19 research institutes surveyed by Jiji Press.

Exports rose 14.7% to a record ¥8,460.9 billion, and imports grew 31.2% to ¥8,873.3 billion, also a record high.

In trade with Russia, which is continuing its invasion of Ukraine, Japan posted a deficit of ¥136.6 billion, larger than the ¥24.6 billion in deficit a year before.

Imports from Russia grew 89.6% from a year earlier, with purchases of LNG surging. Exports fell 31.5% as automobile and auto parts shipments plunged.

A Finance Ministry official said that the larger trade deficit with Russia might have reflected economic sanctions and uncertainties related to the country, but that it is difficult to assess how great the influence was.