TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan\'s steel exports rose 14.2 percent to a record 39 million tons in fiscal 2009 through March, boosted by a surge in Chinese demand, an industry body said Thursday.

The previous record was 38.45 million tons in fiscal 2007, according to the Japan Iron and Steel Federation.

In March alone, exports soared 60.6 percent to 4.21 million tons, an all-time high for any month, the federation said.

By country, exports to South Korea, the largest destination for Japan\'s steel exports, climbed 26.6 percent to 10.78 million tons, followed by China with 7.09 million tons, up 15.6 percent.

Exports to South Korea also received a boost from strong demand in China, which benefited South Korean makers of consumer electronics incorporating Japanese steel products, it said.

Meanwhile, Japanese firms\' combined crude steel production for the April to June quarter is estimated at 27.65 million tons, up 44.8 percent, according to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. The projection is up 5.7 percent over the ministry\'s preceding estimate as of the end of March.

Crude steel output for all of fiscal 2010 is projected to eclipse 100 million tons for the first time in two years, it added.