You wrote: "Exports dropped 49.4%, while imports fell 43% in February, the Ministry of Finance reported in its provisional trade statistics."
Let's get one thing straight—if exports actually dropped by half in the month of February alone, the apocalypse is upon us. At that rate, or anything close to it, active trade between Japan and the rest of the world will no longer exist after a few months, and the nation will be inhabited by emaciated, diseased folk scavenging open landfills for scrap metal.
Yet this is what I first thought when I saw your article, because you didn't even come close to an accurate description of the statistic, and the first few other media outlets I checked made the same moronic mistake. Listen up: if exports in February were 49.4% lower than in February 2008, that 49.4% decline did not happen in the month of February. It happened over an year—which is still really, really bad.
When writing about a monthly statistic, you have to communicate one very simple piece of information: whether this data shows (1) a year-over-year change, (2) a single-month change at an annualized rate, or (3) just a single-month change. Your failure to do this is so embarrassing and incomprehensible that I'm tempted to give up even trying to read financial media.