Reuters: Japan’s imports of Iranian crude averaged 332,000 barrels per day in April-November 2010, trade ministry data showed, down 16 percent from the 2009/10 average, as buyers cut their contracted volumes amid high prices and political pressure.
By Osamu Tsukimori
TOKYO, Jan 14 (Reuters) – Japan’s imports of Iranian crude averaged 332,000 barrels per day in April-November 2010, trade ministry data showed, down 16 percent from the 2009/10 average, as buyers cut their contracted volumes amid high prices and political pressure.
Industry sources say Japanese buying will likely fall further from April, when the majority of the contracts are renewed every year, due to sanctions by the United States and United Nations over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.
The United States prohibits U.S. oil firms from buying Iran’s oil, but the United Nations measures do not forbid the purchase of Iranian crude.
Still, sanctions on the financial sector have made all transactions including in oil more difficult, and the United States has put pressure on countries trading with the Islamic Republic to abandon dealings. New rules on payment in India have threatened its 400,000 bpd of Iranian imports.
Several industry sources close to Japanese buyers have said reasons for the cuts in term contracts include the increased cost of procuring grades from OPEC’s second-largest producer nation, heavy metal content, which makes it difficult to process, and the political pressure.
In 2009, Iran, OPEC’s second-largest exporter, exported about 421,000 bpd of crude to Japan, out of its roughly 2 million bpd of exports. Iran was overtaken by Qatar, however, as Japan’s third-largest crude supplier.
Japan’s Iranian crude imports have also fallen from about 500,000 bpd in 2007 and 2008, in part because Japan’s domestic demand has contracted.
Following are industry estimates of Iran’s export volumes since April 2010 by its Japanese customers. Volumes are in thousand barrels per day.
JX Holdings 100
Showa Shell 82
Toyota Tsusho 50
Cosmo Oil 45
Mitsubishi Corp 15
Mitsui & Co 10
Kanematsu Corp 10
Idemitsu Kosan 10
Marubeni Corp 5
Itochu Corp 5
(Editing by Chris Gallagher)