(Recasts, updates with 2008 data, adds March figures)
MEXICO CITY, April 21 (Reuters) - Mexican oil production fell 7.8 percent in the first quarter of 2009 to 2.667 million barrels per day as output from the aging Cantarell field slid further, state oil company Pemex on Tuesday.
Mexico pumped 2.891 million bpd of crude in the first quarter of 2008, according to the energy ministry.
Pemex said Cantarell produced 787,000 bpd in the first three months of 2009, down 34 percent from the same period in 2008 when the field yielded 1.195 million bpd.
The company has forecast oil production will be between 2.7 and 2.8 million bpd in 2009, but analysts are skeptical the company can step up output sufficiently at other fields to make up for the relentless decline of Cantarell.
Pemex officials say increased output from fields such as Chicontepec in the second half of the year will help lift average production numbers back into the targeted range.
Oil production fell at a slower rate in March than for the quarter as a whole. Mexico produced 2.652 million bpd in March, down 6.6 percent from the same month in 2008.
Cantarell, which pumped more than 2 million bpd as recently as 2004, lost its spot as Mexico’s top producer in the first quarter of 2009 to the nearby Ku Maloob Zaap field. Ku Maloob Zaap yielded 797,000 bpd in the first quarter.
The drop in oil production cut oil exports by 14.7 percent to 1.279 million bpd. Mexico exported 1.499 million bpd in the first quarter of 2008, according to government data.
Gasoline imports were down 8.7 percent from the same period in 2008 to 311,400 bpd, Pemex said. (Reporting by Robert Campbell; Editing by David Gregorio)