TOKYO — Japan's exports in April posted the largest year-on-year drop in over 10 years, due to plunging overseas demand as the new coronavirus pandemic confined people to their homes and hampered economic activities worldwide, government data showed on Thursday.
Exports dived 21.9 per cent from a year earlier to 5.20 trillion yen (US$48 billion), the 17th consecutive month of decline and the steepest fall since a 23.2 per cent plunge in October 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis, according to a preliminary report by the Finance Ministry.
Imports declined 7.2 per cent to 6.13 trillion yen, down for the 12th month in a row. As a result, the country saw a goods trade deficit of 930.40 billion yen, the first red ink in three months.
"Of course, we don't think the virus pandemic is coming to an end, so it is possible that the negative effect will continue in May," a ministry official told reporters.
By country, exports to the United States, the country hardest hit by the virus in terms of the number of infections and deaths, decreased 37.8 percent to 879.80 billion yen, with demand for items such as cars and aircraft engines down as hard lockdowns in many major U.S. cities forced business operations to suspend.
But imports from the world's biggest economy rose 1.6 per cent to 698.63 billion yen, with those of aircraft, meat and drugs on the rise, which led Japan to see a 181.17 billion yen deficit.
Exports to China, the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, dropped 4.1 per cent to 1.18 trillion yen, down for the fourth straight month, while imports grew 11.7 per cent to 1.73 trillion yen, resulting in a trade deficit of 552.60 billion yen.
With the European Union, Japan saw a trade deficit of 191.18 billion yen, as exports fell 28.0 per cent to 483.51 billion yen and imports dropped 6.8 per cent to 674.68 billion yen.
All figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis. — KYODO