Kuwait’s crude oil exports to Japan fell 17.3 percent in February from a year earlier to 6.82 million barrels, or 244,000 barrels per day (bpd), in the first decline in three months, government data showed, according to Kuwait’s News Agency (KUNA) today. As Japan’s fifth-biggest oil provider, Kuwait supplied 6.8 percent of the Asian nation’s total crude imports last month, compared with 7.4 percent in the same month of 2012, the Natural Resources and Energy Agency said in a preliminary report. Japan’s overall imports of crude oil went down 10.8 percent year-on-year to 3.56 million bpd for the first drop in three months. Shipments from the Middle East accounted for 81.7 percent of the total, down 1.5 percentage points from the year before. Saudi Arabia seized the top spot, although imports from the kingdom plunged 17.3 percent from a year earlier to 972,000 bpd, followed by the United Arab Emirates with 851,000 bpd, up 14.3 percent. Qatar ranked third, with shipments falling 17.4 percent to 395,000 bpd and Russia was fourth with 297,000 bpd, up 68.5 percent. Resource-poor Japan is the world’s third-largest oil consumer after the US and China, and it relies on crude oil imports for about 50 percent of its energy needs. Shipments of direct-deal, prices of which are based on the average spot price of Dubai crude, the benchmark for Asia, account for about 80 percent of Japan’s crude imports.