Japan Lube Output Down Again

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Finished lubricant production in Japan fell by 11% in April as declines in exports continued to outpace upticks in domestic demand.

Lube producers in the country made 187,500 kiloliters (168,615 metric tons) of finished product in April, according to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, down from 210,057 kL in the same month of 2023. Output for 2024 has run behind last year’s in every month so far this year.

Domestic demand for lubricants jumped 19%, from 135,279 kL to 160,821 kL, the third month out of four that this year’s levels have exceeded last year’s. The exception was March, when in-country sales fell 13% to 152,599 kL.

Exports, which generally constitute a large chunk of business for Japanese lube suppliers, have been off sharply all of this year. For April that number was 38,902 kL, down from 59,790 kL in the same month of last year.

Lubricant imports to the country jumped 47%, from 13,028 kL to 19,087 kL.

The above numbers do not include automotive and industrial greases, which the ministry reports separately. Grease trends have been more level this year. Producers in the country made 4,611 tons in April, up just 1% from a year earlier. Domestic sales rose 3% to 3,942 tons. Exports rose 18% to 72 tons, while imports edged up 1% to 174 tons.