Japanese manufacturers say a long-term shortage of material supplies will affect the production of a variety of consumer goods including construction equipment to a greater degree than initially feared, asahi.com reports. Industries in various sectors could shift production of materials in earthquake-affected areas to unaffected regions such as western Japan.
Construction equipment and automobile manufacturers are concerned that domestic production of zinc has plummeted to about 30 percent of pre-earthquake levels. Zinc is essential for the galvanization of steel sheets to prevent rusting in roofs of cars and cabs.
Japan’s leading producer of zinc, Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co., was badly damaged by the tsunami, with much of its production facilities submerged in seawater. Officials believe it will take more than a month to resume production. The company’s second largest zincmaker, Akita Zinc Co., had to cease production because of frequent power outages. The company hopes to restart by the end of April. Toho Zinc Co., Japan’s third-largest zinc supplier, has shut zinc smelting plants in Gunma Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture, located about 60 kilometers south of the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
While zinc suppliers are ramping up production in western Japan and trying to secure emergency imports, officials say it is unclear how much these measures will compensate for the declines.
Copper shortages are another concern. Operations at two major copper refineries were shut down by the tsunami, representing 40 percent of domestic demand. Copper is used widely in the production of electric wires, circuit boards and air conditioners.
Production of steel, paper, ink, paint and various important chemicals have also been significantly impacted.